Since we came to Hampton Roads in 1990, my family and I have been increasingly impressed with the diversity and quality of arts and cultural offerings in the area.
We're lucky to have the artists and institutions that are an integral part of our community. We have world class museums, outstanding musical organizations and a wide variety of community arts assets.
It's why our area is so great for living and doing business. Moreover, arts organizations are a significant business themselves. They employ thousands, generate hundreds of millions in economic activity and attract tourists. Arts organizations supplement our schools and educate citizens of all ages.
Most important, the arts lift our spirits and help build our communities. My predecessors at Norfolk Southern were clear that the arts were key in bringing our headquarters here.
Certainly in my experience they were important in keeping us here. I believe strength in the arts is vital to the area. Investment in the arts is an investment in economic development.
The arts are good business. Studies show significant employment and taxes and spending. A 2005 review found more than 6,000 jobs and $200 million in spending.
More recently, Virginia Beach alone in 2009 identified 1,400 jobs and $56 million in spending.
And yet, in today's economic climate, our institutions are fragile. Arts organizations are struggling for survival. They depend on a wide base of funding sources including ticket sales, memberships, individual and business contributions as well as the support they get from state and local government. All of these
sources have been reduced, resulting in cancellation of performances, reduced availability and closings as well as loss of jobs and layoffs.
At times like these, we need to do all we can to support our important arts assets. The Virginia Commission for the Arts, the state agency charged with developing the arts in Virginia, provides essential operating support for more than 200 arts groups as well as grants benefiting teachers, students, local governments and artists.
Groups benefiting include not just obvious large institutions like the Chrysler Museum, Virginia Symphony, Virginia Opera but also many smaller groups and services like Young Audiences of Virginia employing professional artists who teach and perform in schools, museums, and libraries all over the area.
There are many examples - the point is the arts are critical and affect virtually everyone in our region.
Now these great contributions to our community are imperiled by economic times and the inevitable budget cuts.
As a result of state budget cuts, the Virginia Commission for the Arts has already lost $2 million in grant funds that would have been spent throughout the commonwealth to help these groups.
As a businessman, I certainly understand the need for balanced budgets and hard choices. At the same time I know that it is good business to continue to invest in success and to keep our communities great places to live and to ensure that our children have creative educational opportunities to compete on a global scale.
Further deep cuts will imperil our delicate cultural institutions and infrastructure. I'd urge our new governor and General Assembly to preserve state funding for the arts.
Recognizing the financial challenges, I'll be in the forefront urging business and citizens to do their part in tough times to keep the arts working for all of us.
I hope the state will continue to give us the vital leverage and help we need to keep Virginia's children and adults getting the benefits of high-quality and accessible arts offerings. It's a sound investment in the future of the commonwealth.
David R. Goode is the retired chairman, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern Corp.