August 1, 2013

Study: Creative work force growing in Portland

The city stacks up well in a new analysis, but officials still see room for improvement.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – A study released Wednesday shows that Portland's creative work force continues to grow, but the organization that paid for the analysis says more needs to be done to attract artists, professionals and entrepreneurs to Maine's largest city.

click image to enlarge

In this May 2013 file photo, comic book illustrators and visitors interact at Maine Comics Arts Festival at The Ocean Gateway in Portland. study released Wednesday shows that Portland's creative workforce continues to grow, but the organization that paid for the analysis says more needs to be done to attract artists, professionals and entrepreneurs to Maine's largest city.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

Attracting more workers who value and support the arts and the city's cultural assets will only strengthen the city's economic development plan, says Jennifer Hutchins, executive director of Creative Portland.

"This study tells us that we are in an upward trajectory and that we can build upon our strengths," Hutchins said. "It's great that we are growing, but we still have a long way to go."

Creative Portland hired Camoin Associates, a Northeast-based economic development firm, to see how Portland's creative work force and its livability indicators – quality of life – measured up against five cities.

Camoin Associates used data that had been compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to complete the study "Livability Indicators and the Creative Workforce: How Portland Measures Up."

What it found was that Portland's population of creative professionals – defined not just as artists but as chief executive officers, information technology and marketing professionals, financial managers, lawyers, scientists and professors – increased from 18,463 in 2002 to 20,479 in 2011.

The 11 percent increase placed Portland behind two other cities it was compared to – Burlington, Vt., and Portland, Ore. The study also looked at Boston, Portsmouth, and Providence.

Portland scored higher than most of those cities on air quality, cost of living and on unemployment rate and the number of residents 25 and older with a bachelor's degree. But it ranked last or next to last on the percentage of people employed in creative occupations as well as creative occupation earnings.

Hutchins said the study can also be used by the city as it implements its Economic Development Plan.

That plan, adopted in 2011, has three goals: to grow the economy, support business, and enrich the creative economy.

Anthony Lucas, who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has held jobs across the United States, represents the type of working professional that Creative Portland envisions attracting to the city.

Lucas, 43, is vice president of research and development for Putney Inc., a Portland-based pharmaceutical firm that provides high-quality pet medicine to veterinarians. The 43-year-old Falmouth resident, whose wife is also from Australia, began working for Putney three years ago.

Lucas said the city's natural beauty, its broad range of services, and its proximity to ocean and mountains attracted him to Portland.

"My wife has told me on more than one occasion that she doesn't want to move again," Lucas said.

Creative Portland was founded in 2008 by Portland's City Council to grow the creative economy.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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