Art is an economic driver

The quirky things about Chico make the city attractive

The author is a licensed general contractor, a professional artist, and the proprietor of Quercus Books, an online antiquarian bookstore.

Often when listening to the car radio you will hear advertisements touting Redding. This is called marketing, and many cities and states have such campaigns. It is a given of economic development that locations must establish a brand no less than a corporation must do so; instead of customers, the city is attracting residents and businesses.

What does Redding have to sell that we in Chico cannot? There is that bridge, more-frequent air service to Southern California, and … the list is pretty short, I think. Also, it tends to be a few degrees hotter in the summer!

What is Chico’s brand? The university, a pedestrian-friendly downtown and bicycle-friendly ethos, Bidwell Mansion, Bidwell Park, the creeks, the music scene, and a nationally recognized reputation in the visual arts immediately come to mind.

It was disturbing to learn that our newly minted city manager had recommended a complete de-funding of next year’s Artoberfest, a popular and successful marketing campaign for Chico. This is incredibly shortsighted and needs to be resisted, lest we shoot ourselves in the foot once again.

One of Chico’s greatest capital assets—those quirky things that make this town livable and are part of our marketing bank account—is our tremendous cash reserve in the arts. The money we spend to promote the arts is, frankly, chump change. Twenty or thirty grand is not going to fix the budget, fill our potholes, or eliminate overtime in the Fire Department. It is seed money, it is microfinance, and it reaps tremendous economic benefits through the multiplier effect. At the same time, we can retain a respectable cultural life in our town.

Chico has recently discovered economic austerity, just as the rest of the world realized its economic folly (Eurozone, anyone?). Austerity is not for our High Administrative Class, however. Per recent example, we will now have an “economic development manager” who will do “community marketing.” Previously, this has been done by an existing employee as part of his regular work assignment, but now someone will be given a title and be paid up to $30,000 more per year to do exactly the same job. Instead, may I suggest that we let this person keep the job but cancel the title, and use the unwarranted largesse to market Chico, perhaps by funding the Artoberfest for several years?