County executive candidates endorse arts community

GOP county executive candidates David Erickson, David Zook and Marc Ensign agree that performing arts events like this production of "The Nutcracker" by the Cache Valley Civic Ballet are a vital part of Cache Valley culture.

CACHE COUNTY – Despite their other differences, the majority of candidates vying for Cache County’s now-vacant county executive post are strong supporters of the local arts community.

The arts are a big part of Cache Valley’s deep and diversified culture,” according to county council member David Erickson. “The magic of this valley is that there is something for everybody.”

Erickson’s observation came in response to an invitation from CacheARTS director Wendi Hassan to all of the executive candidates to discuss their views about the role of arts and culture in the county’s future.

“One of the thing that I love most about (Cache Valley) is our amazing creative community,” agrees Nibley city manager David Zook. “I often say that Cache Valley has more arts and culture per capita than anywhere else on the planet.”

Zook is not alone in that view. Logan and its surrounding communities are renowned statewide for the variety of their performing arts organizations.

Not only does Cache Valley boost two professional quality theater programs in the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre and the Lyric Repertory Company, but also three ambitious local semi-professional troupes (Music Theatre West, the Cache Theatre Company and the Four Seasons Theatre Company in Smithfield) and the Cache Valley Civic Ballet.

Hassan says that two rounds of Random Acts performances at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in 2020 also helped to prove this area has a concentration of performing arts talent that few communities of its size in the Intermountain West can rival.

“I certainly understand the value – both culturally and economically – that the arts bring to Cache County,” says local businessman Marc Ensign, another county executive candidate. “Capital follows culture and our vibrant art scene will be a great selling point as we work to bring businesses and employers to the valley.”

State officials strongly support Ensign’s view of the potential impact of the arts climate on economic development.

“We know from conversations with companies in Utah and across the country that a vibrant arts culture adds to the quality of life and fosters talent recruitment in all industries,” according to Theresa Foxley, the president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCUtah).

Matt Hilburn, the EDCUtah vice president for marketing, adds that state officials have recently found that corporate decision-making is being increasingly driven by cultural considerations.

EDCUtah estimates that the state’s creative industry has generated 50,000 jobs with an annual economic impact of $10 billion.

Here in Cache Valley, the performing arts also translate into tourist dollars every summer.

The Utah Cultural Alliance estimates that the next UFOMT season alone has the potential to boost Cache County’s local economy by nearly $14 million in direct expenditures.

The theater program is also expected to support about 330 local jobs throughout the community with combined household incomes of nearly $6.5 million.

That increased economic activity is projected to generate nearly $950,000 in local tax revenue and about $650,000 in state tax funds.

“On any given day,” Erickson emphasizes, “one can attend a small town celebration, have an experience at the American West Heritage Center and see a high-class musical production in downtown Logan. We need to support all of those opportunities for our community to be enriched.”

State officials estimate that nearly 130,000 tourists visit Cache Valley annually, with about 40 percent attracted by local cultural events, including the UFOMT’s regular season.

Incidental spending by those tourists for meals, souvenirs, transportation and lodging total more than $11 million.

On Saturday, members of the central committee of the Cache County Republican Party will select a replacement for former county executive Craig Buttars from a slate of four candidates including Erickson, Zook, Ensign and transportation executive Ladd Kennington.

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