From “Tours highlight economic value of creative cluster” — With institutions such as Discovery World and the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and arts groups such as Milwaukee Film, Milwaukee’s creative industries cluster has been a rising force in the growth of the region’s economy, according to the cultural leaders of Creative Alliance Milwaukee (CAM).

“A recent trend has been that cities, regions and states have been recognizing that there’s something called the creative cluster – the creative industries cluster – and it’s different in various cities, what comprises it, but what is the same in every area is it is a true economic driver,” said Maggie Jacobus, president and executive director of CAM.

To highlight Milwaukee’s creative industries and their broader economic impact, the nonprofit membership organization has developed what it likes to call “Creative Milwaukee Experience” tours.

The tours, geared toward area industry professionals and corporate executives, were initially designed four years ago as a talent recruitment and retention tool for the city. They aim to demonstrate Milwaukee’s vibrant creative community to both new members of the region’s workforce and business leaders considering planting the headquarters of their company in or near Milwaukee.

“The perceived creative culture of Milwaukee has a tremendous impact on the region’s capacity to attract a high-quality workforce,” said Gail Towers-MacAskill, sector manager at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and a CAM board member. “The best and brightest need to have documented evidence for why Milwaukee is the priority place to ‘set the flag’ of their career aspirations. Locally-based companies need to rely on that message to attract the creative (and) design innovation staff that they seek.”

Within greater Milwaukee, the creative industries cluster represents the fourth largest sector, behind manufacturing, finance and insurance, and construction. It also employs 4.2 percent of the regional workforce through more than 4,000 enterprises, according to CAM.

The nonprofit breaks the creative sector down into five distinct categories. Design accounts for 46 percent of the sector, media and film makes up 29 percent, the performing arts claims 12 percent, visual arts and crafts accounts for 11 percent, and the remaining two percent consists of culture and heritage.

A recent Creative Milwaukee Experience tour illustrated the power behind these numbers. With participants representing organizations like the WEDC and companies like Rockwell Automation Inc. and Xorbix Technologies Inc., the tour made stops at sites deeply invested in the city’s creative economy.

At the Betty Brinn Children’s museum, tour attendees learned how creativity is harvested at a very early age – a concept that CAM refers to as “from cradle to career” – and the importance of creative education to cultivate creative thinking and problem solving.

“You don’t just pop out of the other end of the pipeline suddenly creative,” Jacobus said. “Creative thinking and creating problem solving is something that is learned, that needs to be taught and that can be taught.”

At Milwaukee Area Technical College, attendees got a chance to see how students learn computer-generated animation in the School of Media and Creative Arts.

At Milwaukee Film, participants caught a glimpse of Milwaukee’s growing film community and the opportunities the organization is providing filmmakers to hone their art and film lovers to further appreciate it.

And at Discovery World, tour members took away the need for innovation within all disciplines – from brain science to engineering to water technology – by blending technical skills with an openness to artistry.

The variety of stops on the tour and the variety of demographics each caters to reinforces CAM’s conviction that creativity touches all sectors and is an essential element of success in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace.

“There’s nary a business that doesn’t use some sort of creative talent,” Jacobus said.

While a national standard regarding the parameters of the creative industries is still being laid out, Milwaukee sets its creative industries apart from those of other cities in the role they played in the city’s founding.

“Our creative economy is who we are,” Jacobus said. “It’s from whence we come.”

While outside cities’ creative industries clusters have largely emerged within the last few decades, Milwaukee’s cluster stems back to the city’s roots as brewers, cheese makers, old world craftsmen, architects and manufacturers built up the region and its economy.

“That basis of creative economy has been here for over 100 years, and so I think that’s one of the things that is unique about Milwaukee…We’re just calling it a creative economy now, but it’s always existed,” Jacobus said.

As CAM continues to lead tours of Milwaukee’s creative scene, Jacobus hopes to inspire participants to add their voice to the mix of those advocating the cultural vibrancy and economic vitality of Milwaukee’s creative industries cluster.

“It’s amazing the creative resources and opportunities that are in this region,” Jacobus said “We’re so blessed.”

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