Commentary: As jobs move back to cities, arts funding must remain regional priority

Chris Jones, theater critic of The Chicago Tribune, 8/3/12

In the years leading up to Millennium Park's completion in 2004, philanthropist John Bryan led fundraising for the $475 million park, inarguably the most daring and successful cultural project in Chicago of at least the last decade. And it was funded largely by private cash. Unlike more fractured metropolitan areas where it is fiendishly difficult to raise money for the city outside of the city, Chicago has no problem persuading suburbanites to pony up for projects in the city because most of them feel no divide between the town where they eat their breakfast and the city at the core of their hearts. With the recent high-profile announcements that Google was moving 3,000 jobs from its newly acquired Motorola Mobility unit into Chicago from Libertyville, and that the Reznick Group was moving its Midwest headquarters from Skokie to Chicago, Bryan's lesson is worth keeping in mind. Without the economic well-being of the suburbs, home to crucial philanthropists and loyal audiences, everyone [in Chicago's arts community] would be in big trouble. The national trend of jobs moving back to the city, where young, high-talent employees can be more easily recruited, is both inexorable and highly desirable. New jobs boost mass transit and urban density, take cars off the tollway and put people back on the city streets, feeding Chicago's creative energy in all kinds of crucial ways. But when the mayor of Libertyville gave interviews last week, the wise Chicagoan would hear in his disappointed tones an opportunity to reiterate membership in the same regional boat. And as Chicago ponders its evolving cultural plan...some soothing rhetoric is sorely needed about the crucial unity of Chicagoland, it being impossible for Chicago to thrive without the "land," especially in the cultural sector. It has to stay that way for the benefit of both sides. You only have to look at the reports of, say, the internationally focused Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which met recently in Chicago and argued the necessity of regional economic cooperation. If the suburbs are hurting, the city hurts too. Or to put it another way, a city in taking care of itself cannot forget also to take care of its suburbs.


Commentary: Where are priorities: should new arts center trump schools & police?

Editorial in the Daily News [Bogolusa, Louisiana], 7/22/12

In perhaps one of the biggest ironies Louisiana politics has witnessed in quite some time, word is coming out of Jefferson Parish a performing arts center that is years behind schedule and nearly $20 million over budget is in danger of never raising the curtain. Officials from the Jefferson Performing Arts Society say state budget cuts and Gov. Bobby Jindal's veto of three bills that would have extended an auto rental tax have severely jeopardized the future of the organization. The JPAS lobbied for more than 30 years for a performing arts center to be built in Metairie, but once started, construction has moved at a snail's pace and the cost overrun has been preposterous. The much-maligned project has become a financial boondoggle yet legislators have continued to funnel tax dollars into the thespian money pit while health care has been trampled on and education pushed to the back burner. In Washington and St. Tammany parishes a proposed highway that would create economic development for both areas will likely never be built because of funding shortages. Police forces around the state continue to be financially strapped while crime rates rise. Where are the priorities? When does quality of life, which a performing arts center would certainly enhance, trump sustainability of life, such as adequate health care, quality in the classroom or a safe environment? Unfortunately, legislators are likely to cave in to JPAS officials and find the additional funding needed to finish a theatre that is infinitely more of a luxury than a necessity. This should not be allowed to happen and the spigot must be cut off but at this point the building is likely too far advanced to pull the plug, even though the final price tag far exceeds the original estimate. An uncompleted building would be an eyesore and a black mark on the political resumes of all involved. Yet, an unfinished shell might just be a fitting tribute to the follies that are Louisiana politics.


Commentary: Finding funding shouldn't always be priority; identify problem first

[In July, Arts Council England, NESTA and the AHRC opened applications for a 7 million digital research and development fund for the arts. Launched alongside the publication of ACE's Creative media policy - which encourages digital growth in and access to the arts - ACE hope it marks another step towards giving the sector a long-term sustainable future. The Guardian's Culture Professionals Network held an online open chat on 8/2/12 to talk about R&D in arts and culture. Danielle Barrios-O'Neill of Ciliaris Media, a marketing consultancy based in Belfast, commented:]

What's happening in arts and culture (practice and funding) reflects what's happening in the wider economy -- a need for more conversation, more diverse ways of relating to consumers, and more playfulness and curiosity. Finding the money for this shouldn't always be the priority; you often have to make it yourself. Crowdfunding is a great illustration of that need, and a solution.


Commentary: Embracing customer centricity should be a bigger priority

Tim Suther,chief marketing officer and SVP of Acxiom, in Advertising Age, 8/13/12

In an era of the empowered consumer, why aren't companies further along implementing a strategy that so clearly drives value and entrenches differentiation? Investing proportional to customer value, the key principle of customer centricity, can improve overall margins 10% to 15% through two key steps: 1) reallocating investment to those relationships with the most profit potential, and 2) using better acquisition discipline to avoid relationships that will never be adequately profitable. Yet most companies hold back. Why? The problem starts with budget misalignment. Our research indicates that 60% of marketers allocate 20% or less of their budget to nurturing customer relationships. Worse, 70% of marketers allocate less than 20% of their people to this goal. As a result, most organizations are starved for money, tools or people to drive customer centricity. Today, consumers choose when, where, how and if they engage with brands, and it's time for brands to invest accordingly. This is no easy undertaking. The explosion in media and channel options poses complicated questions. What are the best priorities? How should they be integrated? At the same time, marketers are being pressed to demonstrate concrete results now. It's not easy to fund transformation while chasing short-term success. Often, short-term promotional results are given priority over long-term value creation. In cases like that, the organization is extremely unlikely to embrace customer centricity, because the real rewards of this investment show up over time. Customer centricity requires a conviction that some customers are worth more than others, and that not all new accounts should be equally valued. Progressive marketers will calculate the future value of their customer relationships, invest proportionally to that value, then seek new relationships that act, look and think like their best customers. Doing so, they'll likely be rewarded with higher margins while creating a more enduring, customer-centric franchise. 

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