LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Local artists, business leaders and tourism representatives came together on Tuesday at the Central School Arts & Humanities Center in Lake Charles for the quarterly Regional Arts Network Luncheon.
The event featured an events planning workshop as well as information on how the arts and tourism industries impact Southwest Louisiana's economy.
"Last year, the arts generated over $135 billion in consumer spending (nationally) … and that translated into $22 billion in revenue to local, state and federal government agencies," said Erica McCreedy, executive director of the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA. "Measuring against a total government investment of only $4 billion nationally, this accounts to nearly a 6 to 1 return on investment, meaning for every dollar that's invested, there are six dollars that come back. In Louisiana, that figure is much greater: about $7-18 per dollar…"
Last year in Calcasieu Parish, tourism brought in $339 million, McCreedy said.
Nationally, the arts industry supports over 4 million full-time jobs with over 150,000 of them in Louisiana, McCreedy added.
George Swift, CEO and President of the Chamber Foundation of Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, said, "About two years ago, we began to really look at our area (and say,) 'What are we missing?' We came up with the cultural economy as something that we could develop and make a better quality of life as well as increase our economy…"
With the announcement of an upcoming SASOL gas-to-liquids refinery as well as liquefied natural gas facilities and a casino, Swift expects the workforce in Southwest Louisiana to expand.
"As it stands now, we will need about 10,000 construction workers at a minimum to build all these plants, and they're going to start hiring in the latter part of this year, and it will really ramp up in 2014 and start peaking in 2015 and 2016," Swift said.
Of the approximately 5,000 permanent workers that will be hired, Swift said that several positions, including petrochemical plant operators, electricians, information technology workers, chefs and health care workers, will require training.
Swift hopes that factors like a $20 million training facility to be built at Sowela, beautification efforts in downtown Lake Charles and the arts and tourism industry will further draw a new workforce to the Lake Area.
Vinton native George Soape is a former starter at the Delta Downs racetrack. Having worked with horses for many years, Soape is now interested in beginning his own traveling art gallery focused on equine art. Although the gallery is still in the planning stages, Soape said that "every little of information bit helps."
"I kind of backed into this deal with a friend of mine. I had an idea about some equine art, and I talked to her about it, and she wasn't really interested, but she liked the marketing concept I had for it, and she wanted some help with some other stuff. So, I decided I'd better learn something about the business, so that's one of the things I've come here to help educate myself about the whole field," Soape said.
The Q&A panel at the luncheon consisted of the following members: Angie Manning, communications director for the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau; George Swift, CEO and president of the Chamber Foundation of Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance; Erica McCreedy, executive director of the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA; Denise Fasske, director of Cultural Events for the City of Lake Charles; and Amie Herbert, community development coordinator for the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA.
The Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau offered several event planning tips at the luncheon, including the use of media outlets and social media to promote the event, keeping flyers and press releases brief and precise, keeping your event website updated, creating a timeline and planning ahead for logistics, such as feeding or entertaining attendees of the event.
Among those in attendance were about 40 representatives from the following businesses and interest groups: ACTS Theatre, ASI Office Systems, the Children's Theatre Company, Cajun Classifieds, Calcasieu Parish Public Libraries, Castle Real Estate, the City of Lake Charles Downtown Development, Dream in Color LLC, The Frame House & Gallery, Iberia Bank, the Lake Charles Little Theatre, the Lake Charles Civic Ballet, Louisiana Mortgage, McNeese State University, Sowela, Studio 347, Stark Design & Illustration, Suddenlink Media, the U.S.S. Orleck Naval Museum, advocates for awareness of autism and Parkinson's Disease, local watercolor artists and local filmmakers.
For more information on this and other events, contact the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA at 337-439-2787 or visit http://www.artsandhumanitiesswla.org.