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Teams chosen for new arts-driven economic development program

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NACo and Americans for the Arts have selected 7 county-based teams for arts-based economic development training assistance

Seven county-based teams have been selected to participate in a new technical assistance and training program focused on arts-based economic development, sponsored by NACo in partnership with Americans for the Arts. The selected teams are from: Haines Borough, Alaska; Pottawattamie County, Iowa; Lafayette Parish, La.; Sullivan County, N.H.; McKinley County, N.M.; Athens County, Ohio; and Iron County, Utah.

In March 2018, the team members will travel to Polk County, Iowa, to participate in a creative place-making training and peer exchange workshop. During the workshop, attendees will receive intensive, hands-on training designed to boost their potential to integrate arts and culture into solutions to local economic development and quality of place challenges. They will develop tailored action plans that will guide their efforts to build more livable, dynamic and resilient communities with the arts at their core. 

According to the recent Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study, arts and culture programs generate $63.8 billion annually in spending by arts and cultural organizations and their audiences. This program is intended to help smaller counties capitalize on this increasingly powerful trend.

Each of the interdisciplinary teams will also continue to receive individual assistance following the in-person training forum. The ongoing training will guide their implementation of the creative place-making strategies and projects they chose to incorporate into their action plans.

This two-year program provides key support to NACo’s long-term goal of building a larger community — particularly for smaller and more rural counties — that can directly support and learn from one another’s successful arts and culture-driven programs, policies and partnerships.

“We feel like our team will benefit from the Des Moines workshop because we will have the opportunity to learn about the best practices for integrating arts into county planning,” said Pottawattamie County Supervisor Scott Belt.

“We look forward to also hearing from other communities about the challenges and opportunities in collaborating with local artists. Ultimately, we want to create a community that is attractive to residents and businesses, and believe that integrating the arts into our planning efforts will have an additive effect on our intended outcomes.”

In September, counties with populations fewer than 250,000 were invited to apply to participate in the arts challenge. Applications came in from across the country, from Alaska to Florida, from counties just under 250,000 in population to counties of under 5,000, showcasing the immense value communities place on arts and culture to their local economies and quality of life.

Late last month, an outside review panel from the public and private sectors evaluated each application and selected the winning group. Each team will consist of at least one county elected official, one local arts representative and one business leader — ensuring cross-sector collaboration and widespread support as the teams plan and implement new community initiatives over the next 18 months.

As part of the larger Creative Counties program, NACo and Americans for the Arts will also host webinars and workshops at NACo conferences over the next two years, and will launch an online resource page to aid counties as they pursue arts-driven community and economic development solutions.  The first Creative Counties webinar will take place Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. ET.

For the complete list of team members and to learn more about the program, visit Please direct additional questions to Jenna Moran on NACo staff at

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About Jenna Moran (Full Bio)

Associate Director – Resiliency, Transportation & Infrastructure

Jenna Moran is Associate Director for Resiliency, Transportation and Infrastructure on NACo's Community Resilience and Economic Development team. She handles grants and initiatives relating to resilience, community and economic development, arts and culture and transportation and infrastructure.