By G. Michael Dobbs
HOLYOKE – Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties have about 15,000 people who make up the creative industries category and now a new networking effort has been announced to strengthened and grow this sector of the Commonwealth’s economy.
Creative Economy Industries Director Helena Fruscio met with representatives from local governments as well as individuals in the creative economy at an announcement at Open Square on March 6. Fruscio said the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC) has been selected to be part of the statewide network and coordinate it in the Pioneer Valley.
The EDC will be the lead organization in the network, which will also include the chambers of commerce for Amherst and Northampton, the Hampshire Country Regional Tourism Council, The Springfield BID, the city of Holyoke and the Massachusetts Digital Gaming Institute, among others.
The Commonwealth defines creative economy as marketing, architecture, visual arts and crafts, design, film and media, digital games, music and entertainment and publishing.
Fruscio said that rather than develop one strategic approach for the state to grow this sector, regional organizations have been started to supply “resources and tool boxes for each of the areas.”
Fruscio noted that during a listening tour of the state she heard several issues repeated over and over. Creative industries need help with writing business plans, access to capital, visibility, talent (employees) and space. These requirements vary in detail according to the region. Fruscio noted that Boston has little space and what is available is very expensive, while other cities may have space for new companies but may face other development issues.
Ann Burke, vice president of the EDC, said that over the next year a work plan would be developed as well as encouraging creative businesses to list themselves on www.creativeground.org
, which includes the creative industries of all six New England states. There will also be monthly networking events.
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said that Holyoke is one of the few cities in the Commonwealth with a creative development director and added that city officials “immerse the creative economy in the [development] plans we make.”