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Sunday, 02 August 2015 22:00

Creative Accounting: New statewide study to determine impact of Michigan’s design and creative industries

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A new statewide study aims to assess how creative industries contribute to the Michigan economy.

While Wixom-based nonprofit Creative Many Inc. has implemented previous studies outlining the economic impact of art and design, its current effort will cover a larger swath of creative industries ranging from industrial design to film production and art.

The study’s diversity will give economic developers, businesses and other organizations access to more accurate data to put to use in growing Michigan’s creative economy, said Jennifer Goulet, president and CEO of Creative Many.

“Globally, there’s an increasing focus on the power of creativity on the economy,” Goulet told MiBiz. “Michigan has such a legacy in creativity and design, and we have all of the right pieces but I think this is really going to help Michigan maximize the assets it has and position it for growth.”

Creative Many selected Toronto-based KerrSmith Design to conduct the study after the design firm won a competitive bidding process.

For West Michigan, the study will likely contribute a wealth of industry-specific economic impact data on the importance of the industrial design sector, said Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communications at The Right Place Inc.

“(The study) will provide validation of the value that design brings to industry,” Mroz said. “Many times, it’s seen as a tangential or supporting role in overall industry. Doing studies like this, specifically for industrial design, will provide that dollars-and-cents impact on what industrial design brings for the entire process.”

To offer a comprehensive look into the impact of design- and creative-related sectors in the state, Creative Many tapped partners from key communities including Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Flint and Detroit to aggregate creative impact data.

Beyond economic data, the study will also identify and evaluate the similarities and differences in the creative economy between neighboring regions in the state, Goulet said. With that information, Creative Many plans to incorporate strategies for how creative organizations and businesses can work together to grow Michigan’s economy as a whole.

In West Michigan, the organization collaborates with groups such as GR Current, Start Garden LLC and Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), Goulet said. Creative Many also recently appointed Design West Michigan Executive Director Ken Krayer to its board of directors.

For his part, Krayer wants to determine how West Michigan’s creative economy compares to other parts of the state. The present statewide study will allow for that comparison whereas previous research focused only on one specific region, he said.

“I’ve been in West Michigan for 19 years, and a lot of times when things are started on the east side, the west is dismissed,” Krayer told MiBiz. “(The studies) run the risk of being too Detroit-centric, and that’s why I think this process is so important. … It’s all about casting a wide net with the research, and not all the studies do that.”

Creative Many plans to finalize its findings this fall and provide recommendations for how to bridge gaps in the state’s different creative sectors, Goulet said. The organization will present the results from the study at a statewide summit in Detroit.

The study from Creative Many is just one example of organizations working to unite the state’s creative and design industries. In mid-January, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) and Detroit-based design firm Sundberg-Ferar Inc. formed the Michigan Design Council, which includes representatives from a handful of design-focused companies including Stryker Corp., Herman Miller Inc. and Whirlpool Corp. The council plans to promote the state’s industrial design sector and find ways to attract new design talent to the state, according to a previous MiBiz report.

Creative Many hopes to partner with the Design Council and advance the design agenda in Michigan, Goulet said.

The Right Place has also pegged commercial design as one of its key pillars for strategic growth in the West Michigan region.  

“While many regional professional organizations around the state concentrate on vertical professions, having a statewide organization dedicated to the broadest sense of the form of creativity and the value those professions bring to the state is crucial to furthering and promoting growth,” said Mroz, who also heads up The Right Place’s design initiative.

For Goulet, the critical mass of work being done in design and the creative economy underscored the need for the state to get its arms around what the sector contributes to Michigan’s communities.

“What this initiative is seeking to do is to bring all of the players, voices and leaders that are actively engaged in part of the creative and design industries to elevate the understanding and be able to selectively position the creative economy as a key strategy in the state,” Goulet said.

Sidebar: Creative Many refocuses its strategy

Wixom-based Creative Many Inc. initially launched as an arts advocacy group known as ArtServe Michigan that primarily worked to support nonprofit arts organizations, art-related businesses and individual artists.

The organization took a step in a different direction last year after a strategic rebranding, said Jennifer Goulet, president and CEO of Creative Many.

In addition to maintaining its focus on nonprofit groups, art advocacy and its research on the state’s creative economy, Creative Many plans to offer research, networking and other professional development services as part of its overall organizational framework in the future, Goulet said.

The organization is also busy creating partnerships across the state and building membership on its board of directors.

“We’re trying to align our board leadership with the professional expertise and influence that they can bring to the table to help advance the creative economy,” Goulet said.

— Reported by John Wiegand

Read 5276 times Last modified on Sunday, 09 August 2015 09:41

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