Tuesday, May 3, 2005

 

Creative economy efforts take a step forward


By Christine Gillette
Staff writer for The Salem News

SALEM The region could have its own association of creative-economy ventures by next month.

Organizers of a task force studying ways to promote the North of Boston "creative economy" said an association that will promote networking for the sector's businesses and nonprofits is being organized and is planning to start soliciting founding members as early as next week.

"When creative-economy businesses get together in a room, it's like watching zings of electricity across the room. They want to start doing business with each other," said Christine Sullivan, executive director of the Enterprise Center at Salem State College and co-founder of the creative economy task force, and now the association.

The creative-economy sector is made up of businesses and nonprofits with creativity at their core, from artists, musicians and cultural venues to architects, Web designers and advertising agencies.

Overall, it employs nearly 6,000 people and generates more than $1 billion in sales for North of Boston, according to a study the task force commissioned last year by The Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co.'s marketing arm. The study counted 930 creative-economy ventures: 358 on the North Shore, 163 combined for the Cape Ann/Newburyport areas, and 399 elsewhere in Essex County.

The idea of an association that will function independently of the task force came from those doing business in the sector.

"It's in response to the seven focus groups we ran in the fall. They really wanted it," said Sullivan, who is among the group's founders and will serve among its officers until association members select their own.

The new organization will be called the Creative Economy Association of the North Shore, or CEANS, said Patricia Zaido of The Salem Partnership, who is a co-founder of the group and the task force.

While the association is an offshoot of the task force, organizers said it will stand on its own.

"It enables us to bring more people into leadership roles," Sullivan said. "The community itself needs to own it, and that's what we're talking about here."

The task force will focus its efforts on economic development, she said. "That's our vision going forward, but it's still evolving. We're going one step at a time."

Among the first steps for the new creative-economy association is a drive to find founding members, which is starting this month. Sullivan said details and a Web site on membership (www.ceans.org), including the price, are in development with the plan of having it all available by next week.

On June 20, the association gets its official launch at an event designed to celebrate and promote the creative economy, Zaido said. Beate Becker, a Cambridge-based consultant on the creative economy, will be the featured speaker.

"We want to get more people to learn about it," Zaido said of the overall creative-economy initiative.

Initially, some of the task force's core members will be the group's officers for the purposes of its incorporation, but that will change once the association has its own members and can elect officers. The interim officers include Sullivan, who is the president; Zaido, who is the vice president; and Bill Howard of Beverly Cooperative Bank is treasurer.

During its first year, the association will also share space and some administrative support with the Enterprise Center, Sullivan said, but that is intended to be a temporary arrangement. "We want them to do it themselves eventually," she said.