Study quantifies the value of Milwaukee’s regional creative industries

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:54 am

The Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee, manager of the Creativity Works! regional creative industries project released its final report and implementation strategies at a celebration event at Harley-Davidson Museum Wednesday night.
The report and presentation have indicated that the creative industries in southeastern Wisconsin are critical to growing the regional economy.
 “We know that our region has distinguished and nationally reputed creative assets,” said Christine Harris, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Milwaukee. “But this research has demonstrated their scope of influence and economic significance. We are the first urban region in the Midwest to quantify the value and contribution of our creative industries.”
The purpose of the Creativity Works! project was to define, inventory, and measure the economic contribution of the region’s creative industries and to link and leverage them into a cohesive economic cluster. In October, the project announced the Milwaukee 7 region has 66,707 total creative industry workers, and 4,000 enterprises, that represents over $2 billion in wages and 4 percent of all jobs in the region.
The final report outlined three strategic findings that included evidence that the region’s creative industries penetrate across all businesses and counties. According to Harris, targeting them for focused development will yield significant community return. Connecting and convening the creative industries is critical to sustain its impact, attract more talent, and fulfill its potential; and that a common voice along with a strong support system is needed for successful cluster development, Harris said.
 “We believe Milwaukee is positioned to become known as the creative hub of the Midwest,” said Jill Morin, executive officer of Kahler Slater and co-chair of Creativity Works!. “With the research and final report complete, we’re ready with executable strategies that will sustainably support both our non-profit cultural organizations and for-profit creative businesses. The growth and strength of our regional creative industries will strengthen our economy and add to the strong quality of life we have here, which is crucial to attracting and retaining top creative talent.”
Globally, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development indicated in its 2010 Creative Economy Report that the creative industries grew at an annual rate of 14 percent annually.
The Milwaukee region has some key differentiators that have helped creative industries thrive here, said Michael Kane, managing partner of Massachusetts-based Mt. Auburn Associates, the consulting firm responsible for collecting the data for the report.
“Throughout our study we heard so many stories about people that grew up here left to go to school and lived and worked some place else and moved back here, that’s more than anecdotal evidence; that’s real,” Kane said. “The ease and comfort that you have here brings people back in ways we haven’t seen anywhere else before.”
According to Paul Mathews, president and chief executive officer of the Marcus Center and co-chair of Creativity Works!, the project has established for strategic initiatives for growth and has already begun implementing specified tactics.
“We believe the creative industries are well-positioned to aid in new state and local efforts to create jobs, start new businesses and grow our economy,” Mathews said.
The project plans to recommend to the State of Wisconsin that it formally adopt the ‘creative industries’ as a target cluster for economic development within the department of commerce. Other tactics include creating a robust networking system including a website to link and leverage people and businesses in the creative industries, and developing a ‘creatives-inresidence’ program to embed creative talent in organizations across the region.
The project also plans to establish individual segment councils including a Design Council; Film and Media Council; and a Cultural Council.
“We’ve already started putting support structures and resource mechanisms in place to make sure the implementation of the strategic initiatives outlined is successful,” said Harris. “Our team is invested in making Milwaukee’s creative industry one of the top five in the country.”
The full report is available online at
For more information on the Creativity Works! project read the BizTimes Milwaukee Cover Story: Milwaukee must grow its creative class

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