1. Opinion

Editorial: The arts help grow St. Petersburg's economy

Paris. London. Tokyo. $t. Pete. Along with bustling waterfront parks, sidewalk dining and trendy microbreweries, a thriving arts scene is driving St. Petersburg's growing reputation as a vibrant destination — and that means cash. A new report measures just how much the arts mean to the city.

A recent survey of 32 nonprofit museums, theaters and other centers of artistic endeavor counted 1.6 million out-of-town customers and $32 million in receipts. Food and lodging expenditures by arts-oriented tourists boosted that dollar infusion several times over, according to "The Economic Impact of Arts and Culture in St. Petersburg 2015,'' commissioned by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and underwritten by the Bank of America.

The city of St. Petersburg spends about $1 million a year supporting arts and culture. Pinellas County commissioners may soon be asked again to resume investing directly in the arts, and they should be able to find some money. The St. Petersburg study suggests that the arts more than repay such investment by generating $6 million in local tax receipts.

Economic impact studies are not an exact science. If Aunt Susan and Uncle Fred from Des Moines visit the Salvador Dalí Museum followed by lump blue crab on Beach Drive, who is to say that a melting watch led to a delightful lunch, and not vice versa?

Still, the study is welcome affirmation that the creative forces that enrich St. Petersburg's quality of life fuel the economy as well. Now the challenge is to keep the arts scene thriving and ensure its long-term future.