Individually, they are writers, web designers, chefs or architects. Together, they are a collective of creative professionals who own businesses, create innovative designs and products, and contribute significantly to the local economy.
The Charleston Regional Development Alliance and New Carolina recognized the impact of the region’s creative industries and worked together to develop a creative cluster for the Lowcountry. The cluster focuses on areas such as preservation and restoration, cultural heritage, architecture and urban design, performing arts, visual arts, culinary arts, literature and publishing, and digital media and design. From the cluster, a leadership group called Charleston’s Creative Parliament formed and seeks to attract, nurture and grow related companies.
The collective has several goals, according to Parliament member Jeff Taylor, who is also partner and co-founder of Cognetix Marketing and Advertising. First, it wants to increase the visibility of the creative cluster to grow it and attract outside dollars.
“Charleston needs to be recognized as having a premier creative industry,” Taylor said.
The group also seeks to support local businesses and help smaller businesses grow, and to train and retain local talent, keeping educated creative professionals in the area, Taylor said. In addition, the cluster is providing social interaction among creative professionals who had not previously met – such as through its Pecha Kucha Nights, events where creative people can meet, network and showcase their work. This has been “fantastic” and has led to the formation of a number of new partnerships, Taylor said.
It was obvious that the creative industries were making an impact in the Lowcountry, but their specific contributions were not documented. Late in 2009, the cluster raised $15,000 for an economic impact study of the creative industry on the region.
“We wanted to know what is our impact; where do we stack up in terms of other areas.” Taylor explained.
The group hired Regional Technology Strategies, Inc. to look at the region’s creative enterprises, workers and assets and to help develop strategies to enhance the creative economy’s impact. The study also would provide a benchmark for Charleston’s creative economy compared to other communities in the Southeast. The group expects the study to be complete this fall. Some early economic data highlight the significance of the creative industry.
* Some 27,315 jobs are tied to the creative economy, or about 7 percent of the jobs in the Charleston area.
* The creative industry accounts for $1.4 billion in annual revenue in the region.
* Creative jobs have a 6.8 percent higher wage than the average wages of other jobs in the area.
The jobs count considers creative workers in creative enterprises, other workers in creative enterprises (such as someone working in client accounts in an advertising firm), and creatives in other industries (such as a web manager working for a law firm). Taylor noted that creative employees are especially significant because they are involved in virtually every industry and therefore overlap with just about all other clusters.
Once the economic impact report is complete, the cluster will review recommendations on how to move forward.
“Our first step was learning who we are,” Taylor said. “Now, we’ll decide where to go with it.”