CCT: 1/13 Commerce Informational Meeting



January 13, 2011

Karen J. Senich, Executive Director

Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism

Testimony Regarding

the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism

Thank you for allowing me to appear before you today to discuss the role the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism plays in enhancing arts, tourism, historic preservation and culture in our state.  As you know, each of these endeavors supports Connecticut’s quality of life, adds to our economy and helps in the creation and retention of jobs.

Created in 2003, the Commission links common disciplines which can develop common goals and strategies, leverage state investment and achieve significant efficiencies. Today, the now three divisions are unified in the common goal of preserving, strengthening and promoting Connecticut.

The Commission strives to develop and enhance opportunities for collaboration, coordination and growth in the arts, historic preservation, tourism and culture. The Commission operates primarily as a grant making agency for state and federal funds and serves to market and promote the state to in-state and out of state residents. We devote our resources to serving Connecticut's cultural institutions, organizations, municipalities and individuals through funding, technical assistance and promotion. The Commission works to enhance and preserve our historical and cultural resources and to strengthen our organizations and institutions to be economic contributors and to exist into the future. As the State Historic Preservation Office, the Commission also serves as a federal regulatory agency under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 which requires consideration of historic preservation in any project with federal involvement and it administers a broad range of programs to identify, register, regulate and protect the buildings, sites, structures, districts and objects that comprise Connecticut's cultural heritage. 

The arts, culture, heritage and historic preservation are critical to the state’s economy – these labor centric industries create jobs, generate tax revenue and make Connecticut a place where businesses and people want to be. They enhance education and can lead the way to urban revitalization and smart growth.

In 2010, the Commission released its 2nd strategic plan to ensure that it continues to pursue its mission, while serving the state and our constituents in the most effective and efficient ways. The Plan sets forth key goals and strategic and tactical priorities in order to enable the success of its constituents, improve our own operating efficiency and communicate more effectively with our authorizers. I am certain that the goals are reasonable and sustainable and we have already undertaken many of the recommendations under the Plan. The Plan can be found on our website

The Commission offers funding opportunities to organizations, individuals and municipalities to support arts, heritage, preservation, tourism and culture in the form of 16 grant programs funded though state and federal funds and the Community Investment Act. In fiscal year 2010, the Commission awarded over $6.4 million in grants to organizations, individuals and municipalities in support of the arts and tourism and historic preservation initiatives. These grant awards lead to private investment that helps in the creation and retention of jobs and generates income for municipalities and the state.

The Commission also administers the three state historic preservation tax credit programs and the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. 

Since January 2010, eight (8) new federal projects were received and six (6) projects in Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury and Bloomfield - were completed. The six projects spent over $105 million on the rehabilitation projects.

As I tell you the construction costs for these projects, I remind you that these are hard costs and that historic preservation is labor intensive - 70% of the expenditures on a preservation project are related to labor as opposed to a new building, for which only 50% of the total cost is for labor. Additionally, the labor and materials are local – just as when the structure was originally built.

Historic preservation generates jobs and increases property values. It provides communities with new residents, new businesses and new tax dollars. Along with the benefits of job and revenue creation, historic preservation also revitalizes our communities. It is a key tool for creating affordable housing in urban neighborhoods and older suburbs. And it is environmentally sound: reusing buildings saves energy and produces less waste.

According to Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research, $1 million spent on a new building creates 36 jobs and generates $1.2 million in household income, $103,000 in state taxes and $86,000 in local taxes. Moreover, $1 million spent on the restoration of a historic building creates 38 jobs and generates $1.3 million in household income, $110,000 in state taxes and $92,000 in local taxes.

We have commissioned a state-wide economic impact study of our historic preservation programs, including the grants and state tax credits – which is due out in February.

Connecticut’s three (3) state historic tax credit programs were created to address needs for housing with the added benefit of promoting preservation and creating jobs and revenue. The Historic Homes Tax Credit program, under §10-416b of the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS), assists owner occupied multi-unit historic homes in specific economically distressed areas. In 2010, just under $1 million was reserved for this program, representing over $4 million in private investment for 33 projects.

The Historic Structures Rehabilitation Tax Credit program (CGS §10-416a) and the Historic Preservation Tax Credit program (CGS §10-416b) which support the rehabilitation of historic industrial and commercial buildings for residential and commercial use, create housing, put the buildings back on the tax rolls and revitalize urban and distressed areas. In 2010, the combined programs reserved over $11.5 million in credits, which created over $28 million in private investment and generated almost $60 million in construction costs.

The Commission receives funds for historic preservation activities, including grant programs, from the Community Investment Act (§4-66aa). In 2010, the Commission awarded $4.6 million in preservation grants throughout the state, including Endangered Building Grants to the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport after the tornado damaged the building and the Connecticut River Museum in Essex after a fire revealed damage to the deck and pilings on which the structure sits. Almost $1 million was awarded this past December towards ten (10) Historic Restoration Fund projects and we will offer a second round of grants this spring. The ten HRF projects will generate an estimated $2 million in construction spending.

The arts division develops and strengthens the arts in the state, making artistic experiences widely available to residents and visitors. Through our many programs, we invest in artists and art organizations; encourage public participation as creators, learners, supporters and audience.

According to a study conducted by the Americans for the Arts in 2009, there are over 40,000 arts identified jobs in Connecticut, which are part of our creative economy of designers, artists, actors, and etc. Also, there are over 9,520 arts-related businesses in Connecticut, which employ over 38,000 people. Of 141 arts organizations and local arts agencies receiving operating support from the Commission, they account for 711 full-time and 2,394 part-time jobs in the state.

Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts talks about how "art works". First, art works refers to the works themselves; 2nd, art works refers to how arts can change us, inspire, challenge, confront and comfort us – it sparks our imaginations and reminds us who we are and what we can become. And finally, art works because arts jobs are real jobs – nationally, there are 5.7 million full time arts related jobs and over 2 million full time artists.

The Commission awards grants and offers a range of technical assistance to arts organizations to strengthen and sustain them and to ensure their continued service to the state. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, one dollar of state investment in the arts leverages $11 of private or non-government investment. Funding opportunities are available to arts organizations, individuals, municipalities and schools and technical assistance and professional development programs are offered all constituents.

The Commission also has a long history of strong integrated arts education programs. Our Higher Order Thinking (HOT) Schools program, now beginning its 18th year, strives to help ensure that the arts are basic to the education of school children and youth. Over time, HOT Schools has evolved into a whole-school reform initiative responsive to the needs of individual schools within the program’s three core components: strong arts, arts integration and democratic practice. The program has developed innovative models and strategies that "expand opportunities for children and youth to participate in and to increase their understanding of or skills in the arts". HOT Schools also provides a rich training ground, offering outstanding "professional development opportunities for artists, arts professionals and teachers." Through this arts- integrated approach, Connecticut’s future workforce of creative and innovative thinkers are being taught.

As the Commission’s ability to provide financial support to arts, heritage, tourism and cultural organizations has decreased, the Commission has increased the technical assistance being offered to cultural organizations across the state, including through the Peer Advisor Network. The Peer Advisor Network provides flexible, short-term consulting service by trained, seasoned Connecticut professionals in a variety of organizational health, capacity and management issues. In 2009, the Commission joined with the Connecticut Humanities Council to expand the service to historical, heritage and humanities organizations.

Tourism in Connecticut generates $11.5 billion in total traveler and tourism spending

  • Generates $1.15 billion in state and local tax revenue
  • Employs 110,775 people (6.5% of state total) in Connecticut
  • Each Connecticut household would pay $950 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by the tourism industry
  • Casino gaming revenue supports vital state & local services
    • $377.8 million (FY09) – contributions to state general fund
    • $ 93.0 million (FY09) – grants to all municipalities statewide.

Tourism can help the state reduce the deficit and grow and retain jobs. It is one of the few areas of the state budget that generates revenue. Jobs created by tourism are good jobs, solid jobs, jobs that are both skilled and unskilled, held by people of all ages and are often the 2nd job in a Connecticut family’s household, keeping that family whole and financially secure in tough times.  Additionally, tourism jobs are home grown and cannot be moved out of state.

Therefore, despite the cutback of the Statewide Marketing account, the Commission continued its commitment to making tourism a leading economic contributor and a source of pride for Connecticut. The Commission continued to partner with the tourism industry and the three regional tourism districts to encourage strategic investment in the tourism industry, so as to ensure that Connecticut is a destination for leisure and business travelers.

The Commission has been working to improve the State’s official tourism website, The site receives annually over 2 million visitors from within Connecticut and beyond. To be launched next month, visitors to the site will experience a more modern, engaging and results oriented on-line travel planning resource. The new site has been developed based in analysis of our existing site and our competitors’ sites and research into evolving customer expectations. We know that the current market and consumer are different and we must constantly evolve and respond with new offerings and new ways of communicating those offerings. The new site includes new content areas, mapping and social network interfaces.

In 2010, the Commission awarded over $850,000 in marketing grants to support the marketing efforts of arts, tourism, heritage and cultural organizations across the state. As part of the Cooperative Marketing Grant program, the Commission developed the opportunity for grantees to advertise in the Free Standing Insert – Getaway Guide for fall/winter and spring/summer. The Getaway Guide reached an estimated readership of 5.5 million people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The additional integrated on-line efforts included 525,000 emails to opt-in subscribers interested in Connecticut tourism information and an interactive version of the FSI on Over 290,000 inquiries were received collectively among the 57 advertisers in the FSI.

We are aware of the work yet to be done to improve Connecticut’s standing as a destination. We need to get back to the business of marketing the state – it is simple, if we do not market, people will not come. We stand ready and able to embark on a much needed branding campaign to define the state with a compelling brand identity to be the platform for building state, regional and private sector marketing efforts for business development and job creation through growth. We need to create a new Strategic Marketing Plan for growing tourism in Connecticut – a consumer driven roadmap based on market research with industry input, defining innovative and creative and media strategies.

As for Discover New England and marketing the state abroad, we look forward to being able to be a part of that again. Discover New England is the joint marketing organization created in 1992 to promote the region collectively abroad where the New England brand is the better known brand than the individual states. According to the US Department of Commerce, over 1.6 million overseas visitors (excluding Canada and Mexico) came to New England in 2009. International visitors spent an estimated $11.9 billion on travel to and tourism related activities within the United States in October 2010, according to the Department of Commerce. That figure is 18% more than was spent in October 2009 and reflects the 10th straight month of growth in US total travel and tourism exports. The Commission is ready to help Connecticut take advantage of these opportunities.

Finally, we have been working to identify and document more sites to be listed on the Connecticut Freedom Trail. The Commission identifies documents and designates sites for the Connecticut Freedom Trail, along with its statutory partner the Amistad Committee, Inc., and promotes the Freedom Trail and its sites as visitor destinations. We are also currently completing the development of a completely new, interactive Freedom trail website to be launched on February 17, 2011. The new website is intended to not only educate but also encourage people to visit and explore the site on the Trail. Additionally, we have redesigned the Freedom Trail brochure to promote the trail and sites.

We are also developing and designing an exhibit entitled, A Force to Be Reckoned With: Abolition in Eastern Connecticut, Sites and Stories from the Connecticut Freedom Trail to be shown at our Gallery April – June 2011. Connecticut Explored, of which the Commission is on the editorial board and supports, will focus on the Civil War in its spring 2011 issue. We are also working with the Judy Dworin Performance Project to develop a performance piece for youth.

April 12, 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. Along with assisting Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission, the Commission and the Amistad Committee will create public education posters and on-line exhibits featuring Connecticut Abolitionists. And finally we will also work with the Old State House on an exhibit highlighting civil war monuments across the state.

All of the projects relating to the Connecticut Freedom Trail and the commemoration of the Civil War are prime examples of the interconnectedness of the arts, tourism, heritage and historic preservation and of the strength of the Commission to work collaboratively within its own walls and with partners in the state.

The Commission strives to develop, enhance and take advantage of opportunities for collaboration, coordination and growth in the arts, historic preservation, tourism and cultural communities. Our programs and services emphasize partnership, industry input and public benefit. By serving its constituents, promoting Connecticut and creating a network of committed partners, the Commission's efforts strengthen and preserve our cultural assets while creating and maintaining jobs and generating economic returns to municipalities and the state. By embarking on these opportunities, the Commission is able to be more efficient, effective and responsive, despite limited resources.

Thank you for your time.

Content Last Modified on 1/25/2011 2:52:50 PM