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District Launches Creative Economy Initiative DCs Focus on Idea People Can Transform Neighborhoods

Thursday, September 6, 2007
Press Advisory for Immediate Release

(Washington, DC) Deputy Mayor Neil Albert today announced the District’s Creative Economy Initiative, which is aimed at leveraging the city’s creative assets to create new jobs and attract new residents and innovative companies to the District.

“We are changing the current conversation about the District of Columbia, from a city that needs to be fixed to a city that is taking charge of its own future,” said Deputy Mayor Albert. “The District is home to some of the brightest, most innovative and creative people in the world and it is high time we harness that collective energy.”

To kick-off the new initiative, Deputy Mayor Albert hosted Creative DC, the first summit in Washington, DC dedicated to discussing and exploring how supporting people, jobs and industries that generate innovative thought fuels economic vitality locally and regionally. Creative DC was held at The Shakespeare Company’s Lansburgh Theatre before an audience of more than 200 arts, civic and business leaders from across the District.

The summit explored the concept of the creative economy, its implications for the District and how the city can leverage its creative economy to transform neighborhoods and contribute to DC’s overall economic vibrancy. The “creative economy” is an economy fueled by the power of innovative thought and ideas. Manufacturing and routine-intensive jobs are rapidly being outsourced abroad, while technology and innovation are playing an increasingly important role in the American market place. The number of businesses and jobs based on the arts, design, music, performing arts, technology and software development, media, research and film sectors continues to grow. These enterprises—both commercial and not-for-profit—play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy. They employ people, spend money, attract tourism, facilitate home sales, foster existing businesses and bring new companies to cities. The creative economy has become an important sector of the modern city.

Nurturing, supporting and growing the District’s creative economy could have significant and positive implications for the city’s neighborhoods, schools, communities, residents, employers and visitors. Experienced experts in the field who have helped to transform other large and small cities in the United States and across the globe shared their stories—the challenges faced by other cities, the partnerships formed, the solutions created and the results generated—and their insights into the District’s opportunities to build and expand its own creative economy.

“Creative DC provides a new way of describing our city,” said Tony Gittens, executive director for the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities. “Not only is Washington a complex urban center striving to resolve significant challenges, it can also be viewed as a hub of focused innovative thought and activity working to create an exciting future.”

A first step under this new initiative is the launch of the Creative Action Agenda, a year-long assessment of the District’s creative assets that will be led by the DC Office of Planning. The Creative Action Agenda will lay out an action plan for strengthening the District's creative economy, expanding employment and business development opportunities and enhancing neighborhoods. This is the first comprehensive assessment of its kind undertaken by the District.

“The good news is that we already have pockets of creative communities that, with a little help and focus, can grow into robust, appealing neighborhoods that attract more creative people, jobs and economic growth,” said Harriet Tregoning, Director at the Office of Planning. “We will look at how to foster the creative economy so that we can connect residents to jobs in creative industries, enliven our neighborhoods, enhance our competitiveness, reconnect our communities and increase the vitality of our city. This is an exciting proposition for all of us.”

The Creative Action Agenda will develop an inventory of the District's creative assets, assess the District's competitive position and identify the industries that the District should target. It will also assess the effectiveness of land use, development and planning strategies in promoting creative uses throughout the District.

The summit was a joint project between the Deputy Mayor’s Office, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Washington, DC Economic Partnership and the DC Office of Planning.

Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities and host and producer of the nationally syndicated public radio show Smart City, served as the keynote speaker and addressed the importance of a flourishing creative economy to a city’s future and to the nation as a whole.

She was followed by well-known and experienced urban thinkers from cities with successful creative economies from Boston, New York and Minneapolis that discussed best practices and transformations in key parts of those cities as a result of a focused effort to attract and retain a creative class.

Civic, business and arts leaders from the District including Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Washington, DC Economic Partnership; Mary Brown, executive director, Life Pieces to Masterpieces; and Steven Pedigo, research manager, Greater Washington Initiative defined the state of Washington’s creative economy, and the challenges and opportunities DC will face if it embarks upon a creative economy initiative.

Finally, city officials including Deputy Mayor Neil Albert and Tony Gittens, executive director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, along with developer Monty Hoffman of PN Hoffman led the discussion on the future of the District’s creative economy.

Mayor Adrian Fenty has asked that Deputy Mayor’s Office, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Washington, DC Economic Partnership and the DC Office of Planning continue their collaboration and identify how DC can incorporate the best practices learned from cities such as New York and Boston and others into the District’s unique infrastructure.

Creative DC Sponsors

Since 1968, the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) has developed and promoted local artists, organizations and activities. The Mission of the DCCAH is to provide grants, programs and education activities that encourage diverse artistic expressions and learning opportunities so that all District of Columbia residents and visitors can experience the rich culture of our city. In partnership with the community, DCCAH promotes excellence in the arts by initiating and supporting programs, activities and policies that inspire, nurture and reflect the multi-ethnic character and cultural diversity of the District.

The Washington, DC Economic Partnership is a public/private partnership with the mission of facilitating economic development by contributing to the business retention and attraction in the District of Columbia. The Partnership is your first point of contact for doing business in Washington, DC, offering a host of resources and information.

The DC Office of Planning guides development of the District of Columbia, including the preservation and revitalization of our distinctive neighborhoods, by informing decisions, advancing strategic goals, encouraging the highest quality outcomes and engaging all communities.