Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Creative Policy for the Creative Economy
By Dave Marshall

The Creative Economy Summit hosted by the City of Portland last Wednesday highlighted the challenges facing the creative community. Every work group (creative organizations, creative businesses, and creative individuals) listed challenges that can be summarized in three categories: lack of affordable housing, public/private funds, and communication/collaboration. Indeed, everyone living in Portland could benefit from more housing, support, and collaboration; not least the creative community.

Housing: Portland has been prolific in producing condominiums and we can harness the market trend through inclusionary zoning. By requiring a percentage of all housing units to be permanently affordable, inclusionary zoning could create affordable housing at no direct cost to the taxpayer.

Funding: Public support can help produce private support for the creative sector. Perhaps the most effective public support the City could provide would be small business support. Maine is one of the most difficult states in which to start a small business and this trend also goes for Maine's largest city. By gearing Portland's economic development department more towards small businesses, the City can enable creative entrepreneurs. As these creative business grow, so will the number of creative jobs. As these creative businesses strengthen, so will the private support for the creative sector.

Communication: Through stronger communication and collaboration with creatives, the City can create a distinct Arts District and improve the local economy. The Arts District could benefit from unique street signs and the City could collaborate with creatives by hiring locals to make artful street signs. Everyone, including tourists, will know when they are in the Arts District by the unique street signage. Signage is particularly needed to connect the corridors between the Old Port and Arts District and to help make Portland a destination that requires longer stays.

Finally, the City could also collaborate with the creative community by granting a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) to the Arts District. By declaring an Arts District TIF, tax funds would be directed to make physical improvements in the district. TIF funds could be used to hire local creatives to design and create improvements like parks, benches, bike lanes, and aspects of new developments. All locals and tourists would enjoy a more artful Arts District. Instead of approving a TIF that would benefit only one business and cost the City in tax revenue, let's get a TIF that will benefit all and create more revenue.

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