Arts provide economic, aesthetic boost to NE Minnesota

IMAGE: Robert Ball, Flickr CC

Last year I wrote about the economic impact of the arts in Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range region.

An organization called Creative Minnesota explored the total reach of the arts, including the revenue generated within the economy and the number of jobs created.

Today, the same organization released a new 2019 report as part of Arts Advocacy Day in Minnesota. Fueled in part by the impact of the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the statewide economic impact of the arts grew by about 8 percent.

The study also detailed the economic impact of the arts in the Arrowhead region. Note that the coverage area is larger than the “Iron Range region” described by the 2017 study I linked above. If you look at the 2017 study of the Arrowhead, you see that Northeastern Minnesota’s arts impact increased more than 11 percent in two years.

This becomes a good backdrop for discussion of a potential growth industry in Northern Minnesota: filmmaking. The shell game of tax incentives for moviemaking can be hard to follow. Filmmakers seem to chase the money wherever it can be found. However, an arguably bigger factor is film infrastructure — the available people, landscapes, equipment and workspace to make a movie, TV show or special production.

Usually, Northern Minnesota’s lower real estate values and higher cost of labor slow new enterprise. But filmmakers are used to working with union labor, and love cheap access to potential sets and rural scenes.

Movies are a boom-and-bust business, not unlike mining. But there’s no doubt that the film industry could add new cash flow and energy to the region’s tired economy.

And that’s just one example of how the arts can impact the region. Considering the room for growth, the arts aren’t an “extra” but a viable potential growth industry in Northeastern Minnesota.


  1. Erin Ningen says

    I am happy that film production is beginning to recieve credibility as a potential pathway to economic diversification.
    The production of “The Harbinger” at Ironbound Studios last spring was an enormous boost for many businesses on the Range. They spent a couple million in a matter of weeks. I know of restaurants that grossed upwards of 50k and a hotel which made 75k. They also spent huge $ at hardware stores, lumberyards, craft shops, grocery and furniture stores.

    They also created 40 temporary jobs. Jobs in film are often skilled labor positions, painters, construction, electricians and laborers. We have a lot of talented folks who can do that type of work. The possibilities are huge for creating upwards of 150-200 full time, decent jobs as this industry gets rolling on the Range.

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