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The Creative Economy in Georgia: Part 1


By: David Sutherland, Senior Lecturer, University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business

For the past 6 years I have immersed myself in the dynamics of what has become known as the “Creative Economy”. I have come to understand that globally the Creative Economy generates over $2 Trillion annually, while in the US it is just over $1 Trillion annually and in our state of Georgia, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that our Creative Economy contributes $23.8 billion to Georgia’s economy annually, representing 4.0% of the state’s GDP, and 134,217 jobs. In comparison, Georgia’s Agricultural Industry is 4.1% and Construction 4.3% of the state’s GDP.

But the impact of the Creative Economy is not just financial. In fact, some of the less obvious effects like social well-being, cultural definition, and quality of life are equally important outcomes of a robust Creative Economy. Research shows that creativity has a significant positive impact on mental health, an issue all states are currently confronting. It also shows a robust Creative Economy impacts a sense of general well-being and happiness.       

With a recent focus on the film industry, a renewed focus on the music industry, and very active growth in the performing arts, Georgia’s Creative Economy is growing. Obviously, the Creative Economy is essential to Georgia’s economic health, but how is this robust economy being understood, measured, and managed? I will be writing a series of articles for Georgia Entertainment News to dig into these and other questions to help us understand what can be done to enhance this economic impact around our state, including our often overlooked rural areas.

So, let’s dig a little further into the concept of a Creative Economy. The idea has been around since the 1960’s, but in 2001, John Howkins, a British author and Professor, focused the concept of the Creative Economy as an economic system where value is based on novel imaginative outcomes rather than the physical outcomes of the Industrial Economy or the data driven outcomes of the Information Economy. In his book, The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from Ideas, Howkins says “Creativity is the fastest growing business in the world. Companies are hungry for people with ideas, and more and more of us want to make, buy, sell and share creative products.”

The industries included in a Creative Economy vary from state to state, nation to nation. The Georgia Council for the Arts includes Film, Music, Digital Entertainment and Arts and Culture, which includes museums, public arts and performing arts. If we were to look at Texas, they include 14 industries in their definition, including Publishers, Graphic Design and Culinary Arts. This variance in “what’s in and what’s out” makes it difficult to compare Creative Economies. Regardless, it is essential a state’s Economic Development Office agrees on the definition of what it’s Creative Economy is and what industries are to be included to ensure better measurement and management.

What do we need to do to enhance our Creative Economy?  Foremost is attracting creative individuals and creative projects, like making movies, holding music events and performances, and designing unique experiences for visitors. Attracting these projects depends on several factors: financial incentives, capabilities and talent, and performance locations, incubators, and studios. In my next article I will delve deeper into these and other factors that will increase Georgia’s Creative Economy and will provide pathways for more Georgians to be a part of this growing part of our state’s GDP.


David Sutherland has been an entrepreneur, a corporate executive (formerly Vice President of Innovation, Computer Sciences Corporation) and a trusted innovation advisor to a set of companies including CIRT Tech, Blink Interactive, NASA, BMW, Siemens, and Bank of America. David is an active participant in several startup ecosystems, including Austin, Texas, Boulder, Colorado, as well as Palo Alto, California.

As a Senior Lecturer at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, David teaches courses in Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking, and runs seminars on the topic of Creative Economies. In addition to the Terry Executive Education Program. David has lectured at Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, CEDIM Design Institute in Monterrey, Mexico and GISMA Business School in Hamburg, Germany.

David received a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and he resides on a farm in Athens, Georgia, with his wife Sarah, dog Norah and a variety of horses.



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