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Randy Cohen, vice president of policy and research for Americans for the Arts, discusses the economic impact of arts and culture in Corvallis at a conference Wednesday morning at The Arts Center.

A study released earlier this year shed some light on the economic impact of the arts on Corvallis, and the study’s author came to town Wednesday to explain it.

Randy Cohen, vice president of policy and research with Americans for the Arts, talked for about 45 minutes at The Arts Center before a high-powered audience that included Mayor Biff Traber, two current and two former city councilors and representatives of several Corvallis-area arts organizations.

Cohen illustrated his report on the study with a discussion of a night at a dance event with his wife. The couple spent money at a local restaurant and paid to park their vehicle as well as for the show tickets. Businesses and individuals benefiting from his outing included the parking attendants, the local growers who supplied food to the restaurant, the eatery's employees, the banks and credit card companies who processed his ticket order, the writers, graphics designers and printers who produced the show program and the electricians, designers and marketing people at the theater — as well as the dancers themselves.

“When we invest in the arts. we are investing in a product that brings people to your community,” Cohen said. “A vibrant arts community is good for business.”

Cohen’s study, which uses data from 2015, shows that the economic impact of the arts in Corvallis is nearly $72 million annually, with $27 million coming from arts organizations themselves, and $44 million-plus in related spending by arts and culture audiences. A total of nearly 2,000 full-time jobs are supported.

The arts and culture audience in Corvallis, the study shows, spends an average of more than $23 per person above and beyond the price of admission. That total jumps to $139 if an overnight stay is involved.

“$139 … that’s the sweetest kind of economic development,” Cohen said.

Cohen also noted that arts and culture in Corvallis produces $4.8 million in local government revenue from payroll taxes, lodging taxes and other fees.

“Investment in the arts isn’t a one-way street,” Cohen said. “All that money isn’t going down a black hole of goodness.”

Audience members came away impressed with Cohen’s numbers.

“It has long been the goal of the Arts and Culture Advisory Board to get some real numbers on the impact of arts and culture,” said Cynthia Spencer, chair of the board and also executive director of The Arts Center.

“This is great stuff,” said Irene Zenev, executive director of the Benton County Historical Survey. “And it shows we have to keep pushing (local governments) to provide more assistance to the arts.”

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Contact reporter James Day at or 541-758-9542. Follow at or