Fuelling Fredericton’s Creative Sector
The Fredericton Region has proved itself time and time again to be an innovation hub that continues to produce undeniable startup talent, leading academic research, and some of the country’s largest technology exits. For companies looking to expand their operations like Siemens and IBM, Fredericton is an ideal location due to its highly-skilled labour force, strategic access to foreign markets, and low operating costs. But what does Fredericton have to offer apart from its business-friendly attributes and award-winning lifestyle? Culture. In this column, we will explore Fredericton’s thriving creative sector, and why investing in our creative industries is an economic imperative.
In 2016, the cultural sector had an economic GDP impact of $543 million, translating to 1.7 per cent of the provincial economy and 8,469 jobs (Statistics Canada). There’s no doubt that the creative sector is an economic driver, and that it plays a significant role in attracting and retaining young job seekers, growing families, and returning visitors. In fact, cultural amenities have become important decision criterion in the investment attraction / business expansion process. Companies want to expand and invest in locales which will attract and retain talent, and offer an excellent quality of life for their employees.
Having been recognized as the 2009 Cultural Capital of Canada, Fredericton is a premiere cultural destination - home to a plethora of home-grown festivals like the infamous Harvest Jazz and Blues, art galleries, boutiques, a growing cluster of craft alcohol producers, an array of vibrant restaurants with many showcasing visual arts, and mesmerizing performances at the Playhouse.
To ensure a climate of continued growth and economic security for creative workers and enterprises, Ignite Fredericton, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, and other community stakeholders have joined forces to launch the Creative Sector Taskforce. The taskforce, announced in February of this year, will act as a catalyst to support, strengthen and grow Fredericton’s existing cultural scene, helping it reach its full potential and achieve economic excellence.
The taskforce, comprised of thirteen organizations from various creative disciplines, will be identifying key goals and objectives to address job creation, skills development, talent and investment attraction, and cross-sectoral relationships between business leaders and the arts. Furthermore, the taskforce will ensure that entrepreneurs in creative industries can easily navigate the existing landscape, and that they have the tools and resources needed to create viable business enterprises.
The Creative Sector Task Force evolved through recommendations in the community’s economic development strategy, Vision 2020, recognizing the high value of the arts and cultural sector, leveraging our assets, and advocating for critical projects. To help nurture entrepreneurship development in this sector, Ignite Fredericton and our sister organization, Planet Hatch, created an Artrepreneur-in-Residence program, and has worked with organizations like ArtsLink to help promote their Catapult arts incubator/ accelerator program.
Creativity is known to be the bedrock of many of the world’s leading inventions, yet it is often times the first on the chopping block when it comes to funding cuts. There’s been a dramatic shift in how leading decision makers view the arts and its impact on the economy. Richard Florida helped to fuel this shift recognizing the strong link between a community’s art and cultural sector and its economic prosperity. Recently, the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture announced an investment of $100,000 in support of emerging artists through the New Brunswick Arts Board, enabling more emerging and indigenous artists to develop their practice. There have also been much needed investments made in existing infrastructure, like the major expansion of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the revitalization of the Historic Garrison District, and the much anticipated new Performing Arts Centre.
Cultural and creative expression can be seen all around us, and should be encouraged in business, education, and everyday decision making. With continued investments being made in the local sector, Fredericton is well on its way to becoming the ‘Creative Capital of Canada’!
Collaborative, ‘Creative’ Piece by: Tahlia Ferlatte and Laurie Guthrie
Ignite Fredericton | Knowledge Park | Planet Hatch