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Jennifer Allen: Arts make Wichita vibrant

The Knight Foundation’s Carol Coletta spoke in Wichita recently as part of the three-part lecture series Fuel the Fire, a collaboration of the Wichita Community Foundation, Wichita Downtown Development Corp. and Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Coletta said that quality of life is the No. 1 driver for millennials, ages 25-35, in determining where to live. She also told the audience of city and business leaders to get local and to bolster what is unique and authentic about our city. Art and culture are critical to making our city appealing, because people are looking for vibrancy first, she said.

As a part of the same lecture series, demographer James Chung told the Wichita audience that the city must decide now whether to stagnate or innovate. He said it will be innovation that leads a new local economy.

Attracting or creating innovation, innovative businesses and a highly educated workforce will be a natural outgrowth when, in part, Wichita invests further in improving its quality of life. Quality of life and economic development go hand in hand.

The arts and cultural organizations in Wichita and the facilities associated with them are an integral part of the quality of life and the future success of our city. They are the place-based businesses that drive economic development and create jobs that cannot be outsourced.

These arts and cultural organizations have an annual economic impact on our city of $66 million and support more than 2,000 jobs, according to a 2012 study. These arts and cultural organizations drive cultural heritage tourism, generate tax revenue for local government and support jobs associated with the hospitality industry. It has been proved that cultural heritage tourists stay longer and spend more money.

Support these organizations by attending a performance, an exhibit or cultural event, and celebrate all the wonderful things that Wichita has to offer.

Jennifer Allen is president of the Orpheum Theatre.