Written by BCAC President, James J. Rollo, and printed in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Sunday October 20, 2013.
Are you tired of reading studies that depict our community as a laggard economically and a leader in pessimism? Have you heard enough talk about the way things used to be?
We can choose to reject the negative characterizations. We can stop living in the past. We can choose to embrace a future vision of our great community as an even better place to live. We can work side by side to create a flourishing economy, driven by a creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, built with a work ethic which is second to none.
We are not defined by negative reports or studies. Our great past does not limit our future potential. We decide who we are. We define who we will become. We are dreamers. We dream big dreams of a brighter future for our children, grandchildren and generations to come. We are dreamers, working together to make our dreams come true.
Ideological differences will cease to divide us only when a more powerful force unites us. That more powerful, uniting force is our shared dream of a brighter future. Our dream will only come true when we work together.
It is work that we seek and it is work that will make our dream a reality. We desire work in the form of business opportunities and jobs. Our future depends on economic development. Government must create an environment where opportunities can abound. Entrepreneurs take risks and create businesses to capitalize on those opportunities. Businesses create jobs and economic prosperity is enjoyed by all contributors to the process. Parents decide to raise their families here, investing in homes. Parents work hand in hand with educators, spiritual leaders, and the medical profession to prepare the hands, hearts, minds, souls and bodies of their children.
A portion of the economic profits are reinvested in the enterprise and in the community to sustain growth, thereby making both more attractive. Reinvestment in the community enhances the ability to retain and attract businesses and talent, a key to fueling our growth. Quality of life improves for all contributors to the process. This is what economic development looks like.
At the Broome County Arts Council, we believe in our community. We start with a fresh canvas and paint the dream of a brighter future. We are partners in the economic development process, reinvesting in our community.
At BCAC, we believe “The Arts Mean Business.” Evidence of this community reinvestment and the resulting economic benefits are highly visible though not always recognized. The BCAC is the steward of the United Cultural Fund. The BCAC raises money for the United Cultural Fund and provides UCF grants to nonprofit organizations in our community with a primary goal of advancing participation in and access to the arts.
Contributors to the UCF include local foundations, Broome County, local employers and individuals. Each year, UCF grant recipients receive vital support for operations and for projects that benefit our community. Operating support is provided to organizations such as the Roberson Museum and Science Center, The Binghamton Philharmonic, the Art Mission & Theater, Tri-Cities Opera, Goodwill Theatre, Endicott Performing Arts Center and Cider Mill Playhouse. Project grants help the Binghamton Youth Symphony and The Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton, just to name a few. In 2013, donors invested in the UCF and the UCF reinvested in our community by providing grants totaling nearly $230,000. A complete list of UCF investors and grant recipients can be found at our website, www.broomearts.org.
The effect of a UCF grant is like a pebble landing on calm water. The grant produces a stimulating ripple effect through the local economy. First of all, UCF grants provide operating support to create and sustain jobs at the recipient nonprofit organizations. Secondly, the grant recipient organizations sell affordably priced tickets to performances and events that are enjoyed by members of our community from all walks of life.
Thirdly, patrons of performances and events visit local restaurants, often with friends and family. Locally owned restaurants have increased sales thanks to patrons of UCF grant recipients’ arts events and of First Friday art walks. One local restaurant owner reports sales have increased by 40 percent since 2010, attributing much of the increase to clientele attending arts events. Fourthly, the restaurants hire more staff, purchase more supplies and pay more sales tax.
Finally, the restaurant owners, the suppliers, the government and other beneficiaries of the economic activity reinvest in the UCF, and the growth cycle continues. This final step — reinvestment — makes the dream a reality for future generations. As the ripples subside, the pebble is carried by the current and reaches the hands of another donor. Smiling, the donor gently tosses the pebble toward the shimmering glass surface with great anticipation.
We are excited about the future of our community. This is the place we call home. This is the place we love. This is the place we are building together. We invite you to join with us at the Broome County Arts Council’s United Cultural Fund as partners in economic development.
It is fitting that the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” was set in upstate New York. We do have a wonderful life. In the film, George’s father Peter Bailey says, “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” Wonderful words to live by.