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The Creative Industries in Orange County

As seen in the December 2016/January 2017 edition of Business Watch (The Orange County Chamber of Commerce Newsletter).

When you mention the arts, people naturally think of paintings, galleries, concerts and theaters. Orange County has these, but there is more. Arts are part of what economists call the Creative Industries which also include, film, television, advertising, marketing, architecture, publishing, crafts, software, graphic design, fashion design, and industrial design. According to Americans for the Arts, in 2015 there were 795 creative businesses in Orange County with 2,617 employees, plus another 763 people identifying themselves as professional artists. The US Department of Commerce reported that in 2013 total spending on arts and cultural commodities was $1.1 trillion. As a fraction of GDP, arts and culture (at 4.32%) was bigger than tourism (2.6%), transportation (2.7%), and construction (3.4%). The Creative Industries are big business.

Our creative businesses include the Polich Tallix sculpture foundry in Rock Tavern, one of only a half-dozen such businesses in the world that creates monumental sculptures. They became famous recently because they now make the Oscar statuettes. Lycian Stage Lighting in Sugar Loaf designs and manufactures spotlights sold around the world to the Olympics, theaters, stadiums and arenas. Costume Armour in Cornwall makes Star Wars storm troopers for Disney parks as well as scenery and props for theater, film and TV. Production Resource Group, Center Line Studios, Union Square Group, and Scenic Arts Studio are other local companies making scenery, backdrops, grids, and props. Alto Music, in addition to its familiar retail store in Middletown, designs and manufactures microphones, speakers and monitors. LaBella Strings in Newburgh is the world’s oldest incorporated, continuously family-owned and operated music string manufacturer. Metro Sound Pros in Washingtonville design and install sound, lighting, and video systems. There are more such businesses here in Orange County.

Many local people do not know about these businesses. The reason is that nearly all export their products outside of Orange County. We who live here are not their customers, and they do not market to us. However, we benefit by being their employees, by selling them materials and services, and from the taxes they pay.

Creative jobs require a lot of training and skill, and for this reason they are relatively high-paying. Creative jobs are not likely to be automated because most products are not mass-produced but one of a kind or limited quantities. Creative jobs are not likely to be sent offshore since clients want them to be nearby and well-versed in American culture.

The arts are also good at improving communities, such as Soho, Chelsea, Peekskill, Beacon, Kingston, and of course, Newburgh. Pattern for Progress just announced a new project called the Creative Neighborhood designed to bring even more creative entrepreneurs to Newburgh.

Finally, the arts are good for your business because you want employees who have imagination and creativity, passion and commitment, discipline and skills, can play in teams, and can perform for an audience.

We should all be working to bring more creative industry jobs to Orange County and support arts education and institutions.


Gary Schuster is a Partner with the firm and practices Arts & Entertainment and Business Law. He can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.

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