Creative economy forum held in Demoplis on Friday

Published 2:40 pm Friday, March 1, 2013

Demopolis was host Friday to a forum that looked at ways to grow the economy through the arts.

“Creative Strategies for Economic Development” was held at the Demopolis Civic Center and put on by the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission Leadership Forum.

Speaking at the event was Malcolm White, who is the director of the Mississippi Department of Tourism. He spent seven years leading the Mississippi Arts Commission, and he has helped develop a way for the arts to boost the economy in Mississippi.

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The purpose of the forum was to help give business leaders in the Black Belt ideas on how to use the talented artists in this area to grow the economy.

During his presentation, White outlined some things that Mississippi’s Creative Economy project has done, and how it has helped some areas of the state that have been struggling.

“It has helped improve learning, stimulate innovation and growth, bring in talent and tourists, increase productivity and competitiveness and generate new wealth,” White said. “The Creative Economy is bigger than itself because of the clusters that it attracts.”

Part of what Mississippi’s Creative Economy does is assess a town or a city, find out everything it has to offer, and then bring a report back to the city outlining what they have and what they can do with what they have. So far, they have done this with 60 communities, and there are still 35 on the waiting list.

White said Mississippi’s partnership with the arts commission and the economic development authority is the only study of this type in the current recession.

“We had to take policy and put it into practice,” he said. “We are at a crossroads now of whether or not government can nurture and increase the creative economy, or if it only exists organically.”

Also during the event, Tony Pasko, music director for Duck Dynasty, was going to discuss what creative people need to know to succeed in business, and there was also a business panel to discuss using creativity to grow businesses.