jenna morton she said times transcript

Inspiring our Economy

It was a big headline this week: Moncton tops the list for commercial and industrial development in Atlantic Canada.

Statistics Canada reports that the Greater Moncton Area saw $163.9 million spent on non-residential building construction during the first half of 2017; Halifax reported $137.6 million. Sure, a big part of that is the downtown events centre, but there are also several large private developments underway. This is a huge accomplishment for the local economy, but I think the accompanying headlines are why we should really be celebrating.

What else was happening? Similar success in recreational and cultural endeavours. Festival Inspire and Evolve Festival both wrapped up last weekend. We need to remember that our economic success is not solely dependent on brick-and-mortar businesses. Creative commerce plays as much a role in our success as a community as our large-scale industrial operations – and we are succeeding on all fronts at the moment.

Festival Inspire is just three years into its existence, and it’s already proving to be an international draw for the area. Evolve, a music festival with a longer, more complicated past, is maturing nicely in its New Brunswick home, bringing several thousand people to the area and world-class musicians such as Xavier Rudd and Arrested Development.

There have been questions raised about the value in spending thousands of tax dollars on art when residents are struggling to make ends meet. To me, there’s no question: it’s worth it. The relatively small investments needed to help events such as Inspire and Evolve operate create local jobs and add to the tourism economy by drawing visitors, not to mention the immeasurable impact it has on the quality of life of local residents to have access to these cultural influences. Helping our community grow and prosper means spending money and time nurturing several avenues at once.

Festival Inspire, in the way in which it is organized throughout the community and draws on several influences and offers everything from musical workshops to disco bike rides alongside the creation of the iconic murals, reminds me of Celtic Colours International Festival. This cultural festival has transformed Cape Breton in many ways, creating long-term employment, extending the tourism season, and providing international attention and inspiration for local performers. Concerts that mix local and international talents are held throughout the island, with workshops, community dinners, dances, and more scheduled alongside the main events. Running for more than two decades, this event now contributes more than $1million per day to the economy during the event itself, but I’ve met many travellers who come during other times of the year as a direct result of the festival.

I’m not sure Inspire will reach the same level of economic impact, given that it is free to watch the artists create their works, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t significant spin-offs to be realized. There is also the harder-to-measure impact of the local artists who will be motivated and promoted because of this event. I have no doubt Inspire is already reaching Celtic Colours-esque success with this.

A quick search of ‘Moncton’ on social media earlier this week brought a flood of photos of musicians, artists, and people amazed by what they were experiencing in our little corner of the world. It’s not the only thing happening here, and it doesn’t mean we are trying to hide the hard parts that need work. But it serves as a reminder that a successful community is not one built on industry alone. If we want to keep that title of commercial and industrial leader, if we want to grow our business base, we need to continue to grow our creative culture alongside it.

She Said appears Saturday in the Times & Transcript.

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