Back in the fall, I had the privilege of meeting Maureen Sager, Executive Director of the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy, or ACE. In short, from their website, “ACE originated from long-term discussions with a broad spectrum of stakeholders representing Capital Region arts organizations, private corporations, philanthropists, economic development, chambers of commerce, non-profit organizations, financial organizations, media, and educational institutions.”
Within 10 minutes of me telling Maureen about co-mads and her telling told me about her ideas and efforts to build a “Cultural Tourism Committee” here in the Capital Region (CR), she asked if I’d like to be involved in the initiative. This committee would be a subcommittee of a larger effort to rebrand the region… to put the CR on the map as a great place to visit, live, work, and play. You have NYC, the Berkshires, Buffalo…and then there’s this vacant hole in upstate that no one really talks about. THE CAPITAL OF NEW YORK FOR PETE’S SAKE! In reality, we have so much to offer, so much potential. I’ll tell you a few reasons why.
The Daily Gazette recently wrote an article on Maureen and the creative economy, which can be found here. Get this… “Creative industries put 47,000 individuals to work and generate $1.4 billion in earnings each year in the Capital Region, according to ACE. Over 16,000 of those individuals freelance – that’s a higher percentage of freelancers in the creative industries here in the Capital Region than in New York City or Boston, according to ACE.”
Those are alarming statistics, but statistics don’t tell the whole story. I love this region. I’ve traveled around the world and I choose to live here. The communities within the CR unite when tragedy hits, the arts/culture/food allow for a different experience every day of the week, you can get to most important major cities in three hours or less, you can be in the city one minute and on the lake or a mountain 30 minutes later…I could go on, but another reason this is such a great place to be a young professional/entrepreneur is the willingness of people to help lift you up. Throughout the development process of co-mads, I’ve been lucky enough to connect with people who are far more successful than I. They want to lift me up with them, they want to lend guidance in my exploration of entrepreneurship, and they have provided me opportunities I would’ve never had on my own. I’m convinced that in many bigger cities, these people would be too busy to meet for coffee, or would have a competitive mindset that would disallow them from sharing resources with me…that’s been the experience of some of my friends living in these cities.
I’ve joined ACE’s Cultural Tourism Committee for all of these reasons. I’d imagine that the other business owners and organization leaders who sit on the committee have similar reasons. I want to put the CR on the map, because it deserves to be on the map. I want to share my story as to how this place has helped me reach my goals and I want to magnify the stories of others. I want to bring people into this region and show them our arts, culture, and more. I want local people to feel the pride for the CR the way I feel it.
This Cultural Tourism initiative will be kicked off in a major event on April 30th in Troy (more information to come). I will continue to write about this project and its impact.