Saturday, February 04, 2012

Loudoun Cultural & Arts District - The Business of Art in Economic Development

Yesterday's Loudoun Economic Development Commission meeting was full of interesting items relating to the business of promoting, revitalizing and expanding Loudoun County's economic base - including recent "Beta" launch of the New Department of Economic Development Brand and Website (try it out, provide feedback!), plus an announcement by the Chamber of their new "Rail to Loudoun" website initiative soon to come.

One of the more compelling and integrated-community initiatives was the discussion about whether Loudoun should implement an "Arts and Culture District" to support the Leesburg District. The relationship between economic development and a strong arts and culture environment is indisputable - as was put "the more businesses that are attracted and retained in the area, the more the arts and cultural district will flourish, thereby creating more foot traffic and revenue for the Town and County."

Multiple examples nearby abound of this collaborative, integrated relationship between the local goverment, business and arts communities - in Charlottesville, Staunton, Manassas, Falls Church, Reston and Frederick MD.

A discrete incentive to businesses and organizations to support a Loudoun County-wide district designation, including the current Leesburg arts district, is the additional BPOL (Business, Professional & Occupational) tax rebates suggested...currently Leesburg BPOL rebates are available to "qualified organanizations" (as amended via Chapter 7 of the Leesburg Town Code last year) - the additional BPOL rebates available to local businesses if a Loudoun County district were designated would be more than 3 times greater.

While quite obviously the business case and community benefit are sound, proven and in coordinated support of most county economic development interests - here are two additional suggestions.

First, it might be helpful to expand or enhance the definition of "qualified organizations", to also include (as the Leesburg definition currently does not) many more investments in assets or activities by any organization in Loudoun arts and culture that result in Loudoun tax revenue...including, for example, businesses that showcase local art (whether physically or virtually, on the Internet), that advertise and support local music events, and that actually create or support new cultural-driven revenue opportunities - including online, home-based businesses. Lots more thought needed here, including how exactly to audit and report on these qualifications - but it certainly opens the incentive to a far greater pool of possible supporters and contributors.

Second, the "thereby creating more foot traffic" comment above as supporting the business case should be updated to "thereby creating more foot and Internet traffic". The Loudoun Arts Council 2010-2012 Strategic Plan suggests as much, with a key objective to "Increase traffic to the LAC website and Loudoun Arts Directory Blog". So do the recent and current Loudoun DED/EDC objectives, i.e. support many more initiatives to improve and increase online promotion and results from Internet traffic. (Check our blog last year on this subject, and its intersection with the "Pink Line Project" initiative in DC).

A place to start would be more online coordination and integration between the business community and organizations focused on economic development, and the arts and cultural community. This intersection is obviously happening offline, as evidenced by this particular EDC meeting (of approximately 50 people), but what about harnessing and coordinating the tens of thousands of online visitors, followers, fans, and "+1"-ers of the various websites, blogs, Facebook/Twitter/Google/LinkedIn pages etc. of both the Loudoun business and arts communities?

The first step would be to "Share the Message" and "Support the Messengers", so to speak, across social media - as this post is doing (please share!). Note that we're not really covering the Loudoun Convention and Visitor's Association (LCVA) social media initiatives in this roundup, as they're already connected at the hip to the DED/EDC initiatives and obviously doing a lot right online to promote this community.

LinkedIn is a bit underutilized right now; with only 100 "arts and culture" members spread across the following groups:

- Loudoun Arts Boosters/Loudoun Arts Group Exchange - (14 members)
- Loudoun Arts Council Page (74 members)
- Friends of Franklin Park Arts Center (4 members)
- Leesburg Economic Development Commission (6 members)

(Compare with the Loudoun Chamber, "Loudoun" and Loudoun Economic Development Goups, together including over 1000 members)

Twitter is also a bit under-represented; only the Loudoun Arts Council andFranklin Parks Art Center somewhat active with 478 and 337 followers respectively. (Compare with over 3000 followers of the Chamber, EDC and "Loudoun" Twitter profiles).

Facebook is much more active, with over 5000 "friends and supporters" spread across the following groups, profiles and pages (Facebook activity of the Chamber, EDC and "Loudoun" pages is less):

- Loudoun Arts Council Group (61 members)
- Loudoun Arts Council Page (114 likes)
- Loudoun Arts Council Profile (1131 friends)
- ArtSquare Facebook Page (510 likes)
- Leesburg First Friday Page (1391 likes)
- Franklin Park Arts Center (2242 friends, page has 76 likes)

Youtube channels, Google+ profiles, Pinterest, Flickr and other social media channels are used by these various organizations as well, but with far fewer active followers. (Note to the Arts Community - someone really needs to start a Pinterest Board with art community postings).

In terms of websites, the Loudoun arts community and their supporters is quite strong, with most sites having a Google Page Ranking of 3 or 4 - this means that information posted on these sites is frequently found via searches or linked from other sites. This also means that this network of sites and associated social media channels can very quickly generate a lot of online interest and support - simply by posting regular news and messaging together about similar topics. However, the sites are very inconsistent with their utilization of common SEO tactics, availability of RSS feeds to subscribe to or amplify news, and use of all social media channels.

Here are some:

- Loudoun Arts Council (LAC) (PR=4)
- Loudoun Arts Academy (PR=3)
- Visit Loudoun (PR=4)
- Leesburg Arts and Music (PR=3)
- Leesburg First Friday (PR=3)
- Leesburg Public Art Commission
- Loudoun Times Arts Directory (PR=4)
- Franklin Parks Arts Center (PR=4)
- VSA Arts of Loudoun County (PR=2)
- Round Hill Arts Center (PR=3)
- NOVA Brewfest (PR=4; just had to throw this in, here in DC's Beer Country!)

So - get involved online, support the websites and social media channels listed above, and share your support for this intersection of interests and initiatives between Loudoun's Businesses, Economic Development Groups and the Arts & Culture Community.

Labels:

4 Comments:

Blogger Loudoun Arts said...

I couldn't agree more with your terrific analysis. Loudoun has much to offer and we, collectively, fail to effectively promote the wonderful cultural things going on all around us.

The answer lies within providing the resources and care needed to accomplish these goals. With today's online tools, it is no longer difficult to accomplish these types of goals in a short amount of time.

The important issues you outline drove the creation of LoudounArts.com. This was started in January and developed on a part time basis. Proof that if serious attention is paid to effective arts communication, wonderful things can happen.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Loudoun Arts said...

I couldn't agree more with your terrific analysis. Loudoun has much to offer and we, collectively, fail to effectively promote the wonderful cultural things going on all around us. That said, the Loudoun Arts Council does promote events fairly well.

The answer lies within providing the resources and care needed to accomplish these goals. With today's online tools, it is no longer difficult to accomplish these types of goals in a short amount of time.

The important issues you outline drove the creation of LoudounArts.com. This was started in January and developed on a part time basis. Proof that if serious attention is paid to effective arts communication, wonderful things can happen.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Professional Remodeling Group said...

Yes! Preserving and teaching the Art & Culture in the area is an investment in our tourism & youth that also requires financial investment. We're glad this plan to sustain the commitment to invest in preserving & displaying local arts shows that's a demonstrated priority here.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Norman Duncan said...

As the sponsor of the Loudoun Arts and Culture District for Loudoun I feel that the BOS should implement this unique economic benefit to include the new Hounds Ballpark as this is certainly culture. These benefits will be of great importance to insure the success of this much needed venture. Norman Duncan

4:57 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home