What if small towns in West Virginia were developed as Arts & Culture Industrial Parks? Like the traditional industrial parks “out by the Interstate”, our empty-seeming uptown business districts could be strategically developed to appeal to investors in the entertainment industry.
They don’t call it an “industry” for nothing.
Arts, culture and nightlife provide a wonderful array of quality jobs from media specialists to recording engineers to service workers in restaurants and the new downtown hotels.
How to pay for that?
Maybe in the same way we paid to acquire land out by the Interstate, clear and level that land, build access to Interstate and on-site roads, put in utilities, etc.
Do Counties or CVBs have bonding authority? Can a town like Weston or Philippi take advantage of historic tax credits that can be sold for cash?
Clarksburg has garnered millions through the tax credit strategy as they invested in and developed the soon-to-be-opened Robinson Grand Performance Arts Center. Millions.
A lot of the infrastructure is already in place in our downtown areas and just waiting for some strategic rehab and renovation. Relatively speaking, in terms of financial investment, it would not be as “speculative” as are the traditional industrial parks.
Of course, we could consider this notion as “pie in the sky” and not even research the possibilities. We should probably wait and see if someone else tries it first.
Play it safe; stick with what we know.
Or we could learn more about Asheville, NC and Ithaca, NY, where they embraced culture and the arts as economic development strategies.