How to grow our creative economy

The other day I received a phone call from a number I did not recognize – where did all these extra digits come from? The woman on the phone asked if I used Photoshop for my photography business.

Her company was offering a service where I could upload my digital images, have them processed or manipulated and they would be ready for me the next day to download. She offered to let me try their service for free. I explained to her that when I need to use Photoshop I send my images to my local graphic designer.

The caller ID number was starting to bug me. What was it with all of those extra digits – maybe some kind of new internet phone service? The woman spoke great English but I could tell it was not your basic midwestern accent. I had to ask, “Where are you calling me from?” She responded, “I am calling from Switzerland and my company is based in Germany, may I send you some information?”

Okay, let me get this straight: I am receiving a telemarketing call from a salesperson in Switzerland, representing a German company for services I can easily get locally. I forgot to ask where the people who did the photo manipulation were based, for all I know it could be some other foreign country or even my Photoshop guy down the street.

When we think of outsourcing, we generally think of the call center employees whose calls are now being answered by someone in a foreign country or manufacturing jobs sent overseas by corporations seeking lower costs. Only now are we beginning to realize that many “safe” occupations such as accounting, engineering, architecture, software development and now creative endeavors are following this trend.

We have a major problem with unemployment and by most estimates it will take many years to recover even if we add jobs at the rate we did in our best economic growth periods. We need to make an effort to attract and keep more money in our local and state economy. Our businesses will benefit, our communities will benefit and our state and local governments will benefit – this is what you call a win, win, win!

Here are some ideas on how we can get our creative sector (and every other sector as well) growing and adding to the strength and vitality the Colorado economy:

If you are a business:

– Buy from our local creative businesses – do you have a reason not to?
– Purchasing locally may cost you a bit more but what price do you put on unemployment and falling real estate values in your community?
– Make it a point to let your customers know you support local businesses – use this to your advantage.
– If you are outsourcing consider bringing the employment back home – even if only a little.
– Ask your suppliers to support local businesses.

If you are a consumer:

– Support locally based creative firms.
– If a company you do business with doesn’t support local businesses, ask them why.
– Make it a point to encourage your friends and neighbors to support Colorado businesses – that house next to you could be vacant.

If you are a creative firm:

– It is your responsibility to let other Colorado businesses know that you are open for business.
– Do business with other local creative businesses. There is no need to seek talent elsewhere in a state with such a large pool of creative people.
– Instead of being outsourced consider expanding your markets nationally and internationally so that you become the source of talent.
– Support local and state organizations and initiatives that promote Colorado’s creative sector. Organizations like Colorado Creative Industries and Colorado Business Committee for the Arts.
– You may have to think of new ways to become more productive and competitive – that shouldn’t be impossible, you are creative, right?

There is a growing worldwide movement to support local businesses. It is driven by self interest but also by interest in one’s local, state and national communities. Colorado should be no exception. We need to generate more money coming into our economy and keep what we have working hard in our state. The next person answering their phone with an unfamiliar caller ID number should be hearing from you.
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Neil McKenzie is a visiting Professor at the Center for Innovation (MSCD), where he has developed the course “Artrepreneurship” and writes the blog . He currently is a Centennial-based commercial photographer specializing in business and personal brand photography at Neil has more than 30 years of business planning, marketing and marketing research experience as an economist, management consultant and corporate executive. He was also a founding faculty member of the Regis University MBA program. He can be reached at 720-339-3160 or by email at .



Categories: Sales & Marketing