Colorado, Louisiana, Washington, D.C. — these are just a few of the states, along with other regions, that have worked with Mt. Auburn Associates to study their creative economies.
The Massachusetts-based economic development and strategy consulting firm has set itself apart from other creative-economy consultants in the last decade. And increasingly, Mt. Auburn Associates, which often works on its creative economy projects in collaboration with RTS, Inc., has valued EMSI’s comprehensive employment data and flexible data research tool as key elements of its analysis.
Such was the case with Mt. Auburn’s latest major creative economy study, completed in January, in partnership with RTS, Inc. and Bill Bulick of Creative Planning, Inc., for the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee Committee on the Milwaukee 7 region. The study defined the creative economy, provided an inventory of creative jobs and enterprises in the region, and measured the economic contribution of creative industries.
Depending on the region and its characteristics, Mt. Auburn adapts the definition of the creative economy and which industries/occupations should be included. For Milwaukee, creative industries were defined as “those organizations, individuals and companies whose products and services originate in artistic, cultural, creative and/or aesthetic content.”
One of the advantages of using EMSI, said Mt. Auburn Associates President Beth Siegel (pictured), is that it gives the consultants working on a project the ability to customize the definition of creative industries. She used the firm’s major Washington, D.C. creative economy study as an example.
“We develop a customized definition in every community,” Siegel noted. “In some places, we’ll define a literary segment; in DC we included this activity in the media segment. In D.C. we did also did not include industrial design at all since it’s not a manufacturing city. So it’s really irrelevant.”
Importance of Data on Self-Employed
EMSI data is also valuable for Mt. Auburn because it includes proprietors and other self-employed workers, through the Census Bureau’s Nonemployers Statistics, not included in most standard government datasets. This data on the self-employed “is critical in creative industries because so many creative workers are only captured in nonemployer data,” Siegel said. “You’re really missing the economic impact associated with those industries (if you don’t include them).”
Data on the self-employed ‘is critical in creative industries because so many creative workers are only captured in nonemployer data,’ Siegel said. ‘You’re really missing the economic impact associated with those industries (if you don’t include them).’
The Milwaukee 7 report segmented creative industries into five categories — design, performing arts, visual arts & crafts, media & film, and culture & heritage. It also distinguished between four occupation groups (artists, cultural, designers, and media).
Using EMSI, Mt. Auburn determined the greater Milwaukee area has just under 50,000 jobs in creative industries — in addition to the 17,561 creative workers in other industries (e.g., a product designer in a manufacturing firm). Mt. Auburn also used Analyst, EMSI’s labor market tool, to show that the region’s relative concentration of creative employment has maintained and increased since 2002 compared to the national average.
Speaking of the importance of empirical data in these studies, Siegel said, “It shouldn’t be so important but it is because this is a set of industries that people don’t really understand. Without the numbers, they don’t take it seriously. In this industry credibility is a big issue.”