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Smart Investment? Roanoke city considers $250,000 investment in arts programs

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Arts and culture programs have become Roanoke Valley money makers. For instance, this summer's sold-out Sheryl Crow concert is expected to bring thousands of dollars in revenue. Although, concerts and performances continue to attract tourism dollars, several of the organizations involved have struggled financially. During Roanoke City council budget talks funding for those programs have taken center stage. The recommended budget included $250,000 to help fund local organizations. However, council members were divided on whether to give the art programs a lower amount and spread the wealth to other agencies.
"To me it's a good equation" said Roanoke Mayor David Bowers. "We invest in the arts and culture organizations and people from the entire region come to Roanoke and eat in our restaurants,shop and come and see the performances.
WSLS 10 checked the facts to see the economic impact of Roanoke City Arts and Culture programs. According to a study provided by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, in 2013 the industry generated more than $10.8 million from outside revenue which was 2 million dollars more than arts-related activities attracted in 2010.
"The arts and cultural industry in Roanoke also supports 95 fulltime jobs and over a hundred part-time jobs" said Susan Jennings, the Roanoke City Arts and Culture Coordinator.
City leaders have supported arts programs in the past. However, the one time-endowment is unique because it is based on both public and private funding. It's a tight budget year, Roanoke City Council must decide whether to put $250,000 dollars in the pot or give less money to arts organizations and help provide more funding to other programs. Jennings said if the council goes all in, it could catch the eye of outside sources.
"The private donors want to see that the city realizes how important the cultural industry is here". She said.
City leaders will have to decide whether the potential $10 million return is worth the $250,000 investment.
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