Creative Capital | Shaping The Region's Economy
A creative economy is a world where arts and culture are the drivers of economic activity. It’s not a notion that’s new to New York’s Capital Region, which has long been a haven for creatives and renowned performance venues. But in recent years, thanks to technology and innovation, it has become the fourth-largest employment sector, and it’s growing fast.
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- [Narrator] Funding for Creative Capital.
Shaping the Region's Economy
is provided by the Bender Family Foundation.
Additional support comes from
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MVP is working to provide health coverage
that is convenient, supportive,
and personal, the way it should be.
More information at mvphealthcare.com.
- The stroke of a brush,
the thrill of a performance,
the spark of inspiration,
the freedom of expression.
These are not recreational pastimes,
they're not pipe dreams.
For a growing sector
of workers they're a sustainable career.
The growth of jobs in the creative sector
in the last few decades has given rise
to a whole new type of economy,
the creative economy.
Hi, I'm Guha Bala.
I'm the President of Velan Ventures & Velan Studios in Troy.
I'm your host.
Today we're taking a journey
through the creative mind of our region.
I've focused my 25-year career on making video games,
one of the industries considered part of a creative economy.
Before Velan, I led Vicarious Visions,
an industry leading video game developer
based right here in the Capital Region.
The creative economy has played a crucial role
throughout my professional life.
Let's answer an important question,
what is the creative economy?
Traditional economies revolve around land,
labor and capital.
We started using the term creative economy
in the early 2000s.
It was a way to describe what we were doing,
which in a way had never been done before.
The creative economy is a unique intersection between culture,
technology and the economy. It's an economic system driven by creative pursuits
like design, the visual and performing arts and media.
The creative economy
in North America generates $620 billion annually.
It accounted for 3% of the GDP in 2013.
That's $2.25 trillion and 30 million people employed.
The United Nations calls it one of the most dynamic sectors
of the global economy but it has the power
to drive socioeconomic development.
But it's not just a big city trend.
The creative economy is thriving right here
in the Capital Region and it's making an impact.
How? That's next.
The eight counties that make up New York's Capital Region
are not traditionally thought of as a unique destination
for creative types.
New York City,
San Francisco and Los Angeles rank highest on the list
of American creative hubs.
Yet, it exists here and it's growing.
Creative industries are now
the 4th largest employment sector in the region.
They employ more than 37,000 people.
Together they earn almost $1.5 billion
and produce 2.7 billion in creative goods and services.
56% of creative workers in the region
are wage and salary earners and 44% are freelancers.
Columbia County stands out
with 25% of the region's population employed
in creative positions.
According to a recent study commissioned
by the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy
it is home to the third highest percentage
of freelance artists in the nation,
behind only Brooklyn and Taos, New Mexico.
Congressman Paul Tonko,
a Democrat, represents much of the Capital Region.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
- My pleasure, Guha.
- Can you paint us a picture of your district?
What kind of creativity is happening here?
- Well, I think there is a combination of innovation
that comes from the heavy technical sector.
We're dubbed as one of the five hottest beds
of green collar innovative high tech job growth
in the country and so that's a feather in our cap.
But then there's also this tremendous affiliation
with the arts of all kinds,
performing arts, visual arts,
the museum and cultural arts.
The artistry in this region is
- From a policy perspective,
what are the sorts of things that we could be doing
to attract more creative workers
as well as more creative industries here?
- What is that specific niche of workers
that we need to create for the creative economy?
It's very important that we stay focused on that.
It may not be the traditional application
of economic development funds but rather a focus
on the creative genius that accompanies the innovation,
the inventive, the entrepreneur,
the technical types that have always grown the economy.
So it's the merging of those two thinkings
that becomes a specific,
unique application with federal policy format
and federal resources to incentivize that sort of growth.
- Congressman, as I understand it economic development often
takes the shape of building a factory or a plant
or capital investments,
but it sounds like workforce development
here means something different?
- I think it's targeting into the workforce.
I think it's creating,
encouraging that creative genius that needs
to be reinforced with,
I think, efforts from Washington rather than providing
for that huge shell of the building.
Giving them the underpinnings of support
as they go searching for the correct employees.
And working with the employee base that is here currently
you have a lot of strength in that creative genius format
and you just want to pull that effort together with policy.
And also making certain that you encourage people
who may want to make that entrepreneurial journey,
that are now tethered into a stronger
industrial base to take the step forward
and begin that journey
by growing not only a business but opportunity,
economic opportunity for the people of this region.
- Turning to perhaps a less well-known aspect
of our credit economy,
about half of our population in the area who engage
in the creative economy are freelancers,
and so many of the issues that they face
are kitchen table issues,
healthcare for example,
the basics of being able to balance a check book
and an income statement,
commercial skills, things like that.
What would your approach be to be able
to support folks like that,
folks that don't necessarily have the business backbone
or a large enterprise backing them?
- Right, it's providing the underpinning of support,
the foundation of support from healthcare to training
to probably all sorts of financial assistance,
and growing the kind of awareness that they need to have
in order to be putting together the plans
to begin a business and maintain that business.
I think that sort of fiscal security is important.
That sort of training is important.
When we've had cluster groups of the creative economy
coming together the first thing they talked about
was single owned and perhaps one-person operations
that need special attention.
And if they're going to be that growth area
where they stabilize and then begin
to hire additional people you want them to be stable
in this regional economy.
And it will be items like healthcare
and will be items like financial
planning that are important to them.
It provides stability for all of us,
those included in large industrial settings
and those who are entrepreneurial in their efforts.
- Sure, and importantly and also close to my heart,
it's really fun to be in a creative economy.
It's fun to have Nine Pin Cider.
- Yeah. - It's fun
to be able to have the Craft Breweries.
It's fun to have the bakeries.
I always like to return to the fact that we could look
at the stats, the figures,
the numbers, the job impact.
But when we really look at the quality of life
that we have here in the region what it means
to make it vibrant,
make it robust,
this is a really great way to do it.
- Well, I think it adds to the imagery of our community
and it's certainly something that as an image needs
to be exchanged and shared out there,
because as I talked with a number of groups
as we clustered together you have to advertise this area
for the innovation that it is,
for the arts that it is,
for the culture that is.
And when we do that we create a sense of place,
a destination with the greater Capital Region.
And then if we work the dynamics of underpinning support
for these startups or for these ideas people
then we have a vibrant future facing us.
- Brilliant, thank again
Congressman. - Okay, our pleasure.
- Now that we have a sketch of the creative economy
in our region let's add out a little color.
Let's take a look at what industries comprise
a creative economy?
There are six sectors,
artisinal food and agriculture, media,
design, performing arts,
heritage and preservation and visual arts
and handcrafted products.
More than half the people working in these industries
in the Capital Region are self-employed freelancers.
That's a little more than 16,000 people,
a higher percentage of creative freelancers
than in Boston and New York City.
Let's scale it down a bit and take a look
at some of the people that power the creative economy.
Who are they and what are they doing?
We'll start with the largest sector,
artisanal food and agriculture.
It includes businesses like specialty bakeries,
craft breweries, yarn makers,
maple producers and specialty food producers.
Nine Pin Cider is an Albany-based craft cidery
that has seen explosive growth since it opened in 2013.
It's New York State's first farm cidery
and they use 100% New York apples and fruit
to produce their ciders.
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- My name is Alejandro Del Peral.
I own Nine Pin Cider
in Albany and we're New York's first farm cidery
and we make hard cider out of local New York apples.
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We started making cider in the fall of 2013
and what we established as our mission as a company
from the beginning is that we were gonna source
all the apples locally from New York State
and the idea was that we wanted
to promote New York agriculture
by producing quality craft ciders.
And that remains the mission of the company.
In the fall of 2013 we got wind that Governor Andrew Cuomo
was gonna create this new license called
the Farm Cidery License and what that license permitted was,
assuming you use 100% New York apples or pears
to make your ciders you get some other privileges.
For example, you can have this tasting room
and there's some other tax incentives
and that kind of thing.
So in February of 2014
we became New York's first farm cidery
and since then have been making hard cider
from New York apples and selling it all over the state
and now in New England too and soon to be New Jersey.
A lot of people call us brewers.
They think this is a brewery
but cider is in essence apple wine.
It's more similar to wine than it is beer.
So just like with wine you take grapes
and press them into juice and then you ferment
that into wine.
Cider is the same thing except you use apples
instead of grapes.
But there's no cooking involved and it's a long process
and the quality of the cider is very dependent
on the quality of your fruit.
I grew up in Columbia County.
My parents had nine acres and my dad
from when I was a little kid had been planting apple trees
but he wasn't planting them from,
typically you go to a nursery
and you can buy a variety of apples,
but what my dad did was he planted them from seed.
And when you plant an apple from seed you end up
with a tree that is a complete genetic individual.
So you get a unique apple variety.
And many of the varieties that he grew
and that are still growing right now
are basically disgusting,
you would never wanna eat them.
But what I later learned is that what makes
those apples taste gross,
which is lots of acid and also tannin,
actually translates into what makes
a great tasting hard cider,
a fermented version of it.
So I grew up basically surrounded by inedible apple trees
that I found out later were great to make booze out of.
And not only that,
I grew up,
a lot of people don't realize but in New York State
we have the second biggest apple crop in the entire country
but we grow more varieties of apples
than any other state in the nation.
So apples have always been part of,
I feel, like the culture in Upstate New York
and definitely were a big part of my upbringing.
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We have a partnership with Samascott Orchard
in Kinderhook and they grow,
currently I'm not exactly sure what,
but I think it's about 115,
120 varieties of apples.
And so about 95% of the cider that we ferment
comes from apples grown at Samascott Orchard.
And part of what gives our cider its quality
is the fact that each blend of Nine Pin Cider
is 30 to 40 varieties that have grown on Samascott Orchard
and it's that different types of apples
that give it its complexity.
You can tweak the cider making process
at many different points in order
to create a new style or flavor.
The first and I think the most important is the types
of varieties that you're using
and where they're sourced from.
After the apple you can tweak at the fermentation stage,
so you can co-ferment it with different fruit,
you can use different yeasts,
you can ferment at different temperatures
and all that influences the flavor
and the style of the cider.
And then after that you can infuse flavors into cider,
so we make a Peach Tea Cider where we'll take a cider base
that we've fermented and we'll essentially take huge teabags
and fill them with the peach tea blend
that we sourced from Short and Stout Tea here in Albany,
and we cold infuse the tea into the cider
and we create this peach tea cider which is fantastic
and refreshing, especially in the summer.
And you can age cider in barrels
which gives it sort of that oak quality
just like you do with wine.
You can age it on ginger,
the possibilities are pretty much endless.
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If I think about how much money,
first of all,
we've pumped into the agriculture side of things
in terms of purchasing fruit.
And then if I think about how much Nine Pin Cider
has been sold by restaurants and bars in the Capital Region
and you will look at that from a dollar standpoint,
I mean, it's a pretty mind boggling number
that our operation here has generated that much economics.
And what's cool is that the apples are sourced
from the Capital Region and the cider is fermented
here in the Capital Region and then the cider is sold
here in the Capital Region and so
it's got a really wide effect.
I feel very good about it having that type of influence,
especially with something like cider.
As a farm cidery we're capped at production
at 250,000 gallons a year.
So our goal is to sort of grow until we can
hit that cap.
We're definitely gonna be working
on sort of satellite facilities.
And the Farm Cidery License gives you the privilege
of five other facilities,
look for those,
those will be happening.
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- Movies, video,
sound recording, radio and TV broadcasting,
PR, video game developers,
that's just the tip of the iceberg
in the media sector of the creative economy.
Branch VFX is a visual effects company
located in Albany, New York.
Some of their clients include Disney,
Marvel, Paramount, Warner Brothers.
Their work is world renowned and award winning
and they're right here in our back yard.
- I'm Sam Margolius.
I'm the executive producer at Branch VFX
here in Albany, New York.
Branch VFX is a foundational visual effects company,
rotoscoping, 3D tracking,
also some paint work and like positing.
We work with other visual effects companies in support
of the studios and the network projects.
So our sister company, Shade VFX,
who just won an Emmy for Westworld,
the HBO television show,
is one of our main clients.
And by working with them we get access
to the same clientele they do,
so that's Marvel and Disney and Paramount
and Warner Brothers and Fox, Hulu,
We are brand new.
We just opened our doors on November 6th, 2017,
which is exciting on a number of levels.
To be in Albany,
I grew up here so I'm excited to be back.
We started with five employees,
now we're up to seven.
Our goal is to reach between 15 and 20
by the end of the year.
We chose Albany for two reasons.
The first being the tax incentives which is very,
very positive for the producers,
the networks and the studios,
even more so than New York City
which gets great tax incentives.
Secondarily is we were able to partner
with the University of Albany
with the Start-up New York Designation Program.
By doing that we have decreased costs
in terms of the ability to not be charged state income tax
which is great for our employees,
great for the company itself.
Beyond that, we have a great resource in Albany,
there is a massive amount of universities here.
And from that the University of Albany being our partner
amongst others were able to find great talent.
The type of foundational work we do doesn't require
super seasoned veterans except for our supervisors
and therefore we are able to go for entry-level students
who are just trying to make their way.
Albany is a very enviable place in terms
of the cost of living here.
It's also only two and a half hours from New York City,
has a great arts experience going on in general.
We have The Egg.
We have EMPAC at RPI,
The Palace Theater,
Proctors, there's a broad spectrum of cultural icons
here already and it's growing.
The creative economy here, in fact,
seems to be growing at a rapid pace.
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The Albany creative economy
is an interesting and nascent world,
which is really exciting.
I've had the luxury of working in some of the best
in the world,
both in New York City and in Los Angeles.
And to see it at its rawest form,
to see people coming together and see the growth
of advertising agencies here and marketing and creative
and design firms,
and something to my heart outside of our visual film
and TV work is all the virtual reality,
augmented reality and technology explorations
that are happening.
And you're seeing it at a grass roots level
which is really great.
You see non-profits like Youth FX
and The Barn doing some wonderful work
it really outreach to the community
and build a knowledge base that both the kids
and the young adults can really draw upon
in order to actually enter these industries
and be competent in them
and be mentored in them to make a wave,
to be successful in them.
And then you see the universities,
like the University of Albany and RPI,
really pushing forward in games
and digital entertainment and art.
And what we see is a really wonderful conglomeration
of excited people,
talented people and local people.
And by doing that it's creating an actual community
that is growing and learning and will be bringing
in higher level clientele,
better talent, but really fostering local talent,
and that's really exciting here.
- Whether it's graphic design,
architecture, landscape architecture,
interior design, industrial design or printing,
people who are attracted to careers in design
have a palpable passion for their work.
Ashley Armitage is a local graphic designer.
She runs her own studio out of her home,
Ashley A Designs,
where she specializes in brand identity,
packaging and advertising.
- What really brings a logo together?
What brings the entire identity together?
What does the client really want
when they tell me their story?
My name is Ashley Armitage.
I am the CEO of Ashley A Designs.
I do a whole variety of graphic design needs
from basic brochures to newsletters and above all,
I love to really dive into an entire branding study.
That's my bread and butter.
What I really believe in is good,
clean graphic design.
You see graphic designs so populated
and there's so much going on,
where what I really wanted to bring with my company
is a really clean, aesthetic approach,
just to really convey the story
of what a client is looking for.
If it may be a restaurant,
if it may be a resort
I start to really,
I sketch out my ideas and really bring
all these ideas to the table to them.
And very unique ones,
not just one idea and then turned into one or two
or three just variations but distinct differences
so that the client can really see
what their identity could look like potentially.
From that process I work from my clients
and they usually pick and choose and say
I like this direction,
I like that direction.
And then from there we pick out from the colors,
make sure the typefaces are solid,
also that they're legible.
You gotta realize too with an identity
that this identity is not just a logo.
This is your identity
that's going to be applied to everything.
I wonder, that'd be so much fun
and if I can replicate those three right there.
I have to say it all started,
I gotta say,
back in high school I got the
kind of creative bug from one
of my art teachers named Miss Sally Weigh from Shenandoah.
A shout out to Shenandoah High School.
And she introduced me to this idea,
this concept that art doesn't always
have to be drawing a portrait landscape.
And I just said to myself,
well, I can actually design my work
in these programs called the Adobe products
like Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign.
And I really wanna explore, okay,
where is this gonna go from here
if I really wanna take this as a career?
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I went to RAT,
Rochester Institute of Technology.
Then I found myself going to Maryland for a time
and then I actually worked
for a company called Chesapeake Bay Candle
and I designed all of their candle products.
I was actually chosen to do a line in Target.
I did their Pure and Natural line.
I went to Fisher Price,
I did a ton of packaging there and applied my skillset
in an inhouse setting.
And then later on I said to myself,
you know what,
I really wanna branch in and do my own thing.
I will honestly say that get the experience first.
Go into inhouse,
go to corporate,
go to the public and private sector
and get your hands dirty first.
Really see the process.
And then later on as you're seeing yourself
do a little better and say,
I can consistently get some constant money flow
into my business or even to yourself
that you feel like you can establish yourself
then I say go freelance.
Owning your own freelance business you have
to set up those timelines for yourself.
It's not a boss looking over you
and you have to keep on track,
because if you miss out you may miss out that next client.
Everyone always tells me,
they're like, "Why are you here?
"Why are you in Upstate New York?"
And I have to say the amount of talent
that's up here in Upstate is incredible.
And it's so huge between going to the Adirondacks
to Albany where you are going to find some sort
of creativity or arts festival or something in this area.
And I am very honored to be a part of that,
especially with applying my work to be in the real world.
My passion with design,
that is what keeps me going every day.
I know that I can push myself and have it be the best
that it can possibly be.
- Careers in music,
theater and dance have been practiced for centuries.
But in the creative economy of today
they're more dynamic than they've ever been.
Nowhere is that more evident than at PS21 in Chatham
founded by the late Judy Grunberg.
PS21 stands for Performance Spaces for the 21st Century,
which is exactly what it sounds like,
a state of the art facility designed
for experimental performance art.
- That's that bird.
But it's good to get that bird in,
it's kind of part of the whole thing.
It shows you that we're not in a studio.
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I'm Judy Grunberg and I'm the founder and president
of PS21 in Chatham which stands for Performance Spaces
for the 21st Century.
PS21 is a venue for the performing arts.
We had our performances in a tent for our first 12 years.
And this year and I guess the reason I'm here
is because we have a brand new building.
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We really needed to replace the tent.
I mean, the actual tent that we had bought originally
was decaying quickly.
And to rent one every year and set it up and take it down
is a real pain in the neck and also there were a lot
of other problems associated with having a tent,
such as the bathrooms were porta potties outside,
the performers didn't have a nice place to wait
or to dress or to shower,
scary evenings where the wind blew and people were afraid
that we would be all blown to Kansas.
We decided that let's go for the whole thing.
Let's have a space that can be used all year.
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We had an architect, Evan Stoller,
who lives nearby here.
So now we have a black-box
that is open the other three seasons.
And then all of a sudden in early June it just opens up
and this appears magically.
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It's like going from A to Z with nothing in between.
It's exciting, we've already had our first black-box season.
And we had three or four performances.
We had some silent films accompanied by a live piano.
It's a very nice intimate space.
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Today is the opening of the theater.
The idea of this opening was to present,
kind of have a showcase of some of our performers
that we've had over the past to give people an idea,
maybe even people who've never been here before,
of the kinds of things that we present.
(banjo music with tap dancing)
(classical instrumental music)
(tapping of triangle)
(audience laughing and applauding)
90% of the things we present are things
that a lot of our audience has never heard of.
Even though maybe in the wider world
these people are well known,
they're not here.
And my dream is that people will begin to say,
you know, we never heard of it but if they have it up there
it's gotta be something worthwhile.
And that's my feeling.
I just instinctively believe that this stuff
is important and I mean,
I always feel that when your beliefs are supported
by statistics that's really nice.
And I guess the statistics are showing
that whatever is called a creative economy
is a great builder for the community,
economic development of a community.
And it sort of sad because those of us
who are sort of in the arts have always known
how important the arts are to lives growing up,
how important they should be in the schools,
how essential they are for your whole spiritual growth.
And so it's really good to be supported
by the statistical evidence because you know
that as far as corporations and businesses go
you have to prove to them that there's a bottom line there.
You can't just say art is good,
you have to say it's good because of this or that.
But I certainly believe that it's here
and I believe in it.
We've had one performance, let's say,
and the next day someone will say to me,
"Why didn't you tell me it'd be so great?
"I heard it was wonderful."
And I say, well,
I can't call everybody I know
and tell them it's gonna be great.
You've gotta take a chance.
- Much like performance art the 21st Century
has added new colors to a timeless profession.
Artists today bring a new tech savvy perspective
to the visual arts which includes painting, photography,
sculpting, textiles and hand crafting.
One of the region's fastest growing creative businesses
is an eCommerce company based out of Halfmoon, New York.
And they make Darn Good Yarn, literally.
- Darn Good Yarn is a creative company.
We are fueled by this concept
that business can be its own creative medium
and I think that's important for anyone who's creative.
I think there's sometimes this,
oh, I'm creative,
I can't be necessarily a business person.
I've seen that a lot and you go, like,
no, you just have to kind of just change
the way you're approaching things.
You can be as creative as you want in business.
That's where the really fun stuff starts to happen.
(upbeat instrumental music)
My name is Nicole Snow and I'm the founder and CEO
of Darn Good Yarn.
Darn Good Yarn is a eCommerce business located
in Halfmoon, New York.
I started the business 11 years ago
and we were just named the fastest growing business
in the Capital Region.
My love of crafting came from when I was a little girl.
My mom, I think,
realized early on that I love to make messes
around the house and I think she smartly put me down
in the basement in this corner and made a desk and she said,
"This is your craft area."
And looking back as a mom now,
I'm like, that was just smart parenting
to keep all of my glitter in one corner of the house.
But I've always just loved to repurpose things,
repaint things, I've always been really crafty in that way.
My great grandmother was incredibly crafty,
I mean, coming off of Ellis Island.
And then as I got older I was always told art
isn't the thing that makes you money.
It was like go to school.
Go do business.
I was an officer in the Air Force
and that passion got kind of pushed down,
but it always came out in these little places.
And then when I got out of the military
I really wanted to explore the creativity side
a little bit more so I swung from one side to the other.
I started this business out of my guest bedroom
in my house.
I was living in California and my husband's job
was moving us all over the nation.
I wanted to learn how to knit at the time
so I said let me try to marry us moving around all the time
and making a small business
and then my love for yarn and all things crafty.
I went to school at Carson University
in Upstate New York and the little bit
of that business background helped me
to grow Darn Good Yarn.
I realized pretty quickly
that while I'm a really creative person using paints
and metal and all that sort of weird mediums in that way,
it's stuff I really have fun with,
I can actually use that same creativity in business itself.
And so the business itself became my new medium.
And once I sort of figured that out
I went like, wow,
there's like a whole world here.
(Middle Eastern music)
Darn Good Yarn runs on a really cool concept
called the triple bottom line framework.
So in most businesses you measure the success
of the business based on profitability.
With the triple bottom line framework
you're actually measuring the success of the business
off of three Ps.
The first is profitability.
The second is what you're actually doing for the planet.
And then the third is the people that interact
with your supply chain.
So when you sort of go in with that mindset
you're able to apply that creativity
and you're able to make really cool things happen.
As the business started to grow I realized that the core,
our product I was bringing in which was recycled silk yarn,
when I was bringing that in I realized that the women
that were making this over in Nepal in India,
it was a side hustle for them.
So I said, man,
I think I can create a really cool sustainable job
for them where they can work from home,
they can be with their children.
And from there,
that's when the business started to grow
because I treated the business like a conduit
to create sustainable employment
versus just selling product on the Internet.
The jobs that we're creating are really based
on focusing on individuals that have been affected most
by gender and caste discrimination in these countries.
I'm not trying to go in and rework anyone's history
or countries or anything like this.
I realize that that's very much a part of the cultures
that we're dealing with.
But what I do wanna do is provide a way
for people to work for themselves.
A lot of times it's women who are illiterate.
They usually have had an issue where their husband
has gotten really sick or he can't work and provide
for their families.
So when you lose the main breadwinner,
that's a significant deal.
And when you're dealing with this sort
of caste discrimination you're not dealing
with the social safety nets that we have
in this country even to fall back on.
So what I'm trying to do is create products
that need a lot of people working on them,
even if they are low skill.
And I believe that,
and we're seeing progress of this,
is that when you provide that skill,
especially to women,
that money is staying in the homes
and it's being reinvested back into the next generation.
(relaxing piano music)
The positivity component is really important
to what we do here.
It just, it keeps us creative.
It keeps us trying to do things a little bit better
with a little bit more innovation and that's really
what I think small business is all about.
We like to also think of ourselves as a technology company
and as an RND Lab we let people go experiment
and try something.
If it doesn't work it's no big deal.
When you look at our stats,
we just posted an amazing year on top of the year before.
We closed out 2018 at $7.1 million
and that was with a business size in terms of employees
of eight people.
We've now grown to 21 employees for this year
and we're looking to post an even larger,
I think we're gonna definitely surpass 10 million
this year in sales.
The thing that's always really surprised me though
is that I was never taken seriously.
Until I started talking about my revenue numbers,
until people started to come here people thought
that we just sat around and knit all day
and that's not what's going on here
and it's been so often that it's been pushed to the side.
And then as we started posting our revenue numbers
and then we started blasting the sort of big guys
out of the water, your healthcares,
your technology industries out of the water
and people are seeing that this creative company
is making this sort of traction and scalable traction.
We've been growing at least by 40% every single year
since I started the business 11 years ago.
We are definitely a force to be reckoned with.
- To many, preserving the past is as important
as building for the future.
As it turns out bridging that gap requires
a lot of ingenuity.
There's a branch of creative careers
in heritage and preservation in our region,
a region that is unparalleled in its rich history.
19th Century Hudson River School painter, Thomas Cole,
and his student, Frederic Church,
shared a special bond.
Almost 200 years later they now share a new physical link,
the Hudson River Skywalk.
The skywalk is a pedestrian walkway
that spans The Rip Van Winkle Bridge.
It connects Frederic Church's Olana in Columbia County
with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site
in Greene County.
- Thomas Cole was the founder of an art movement
that we now know as The Hudson River School,
which was the first major art movement in America.
And it started with Thomas Cole in about 1825
when he was just 24 years old,
and extended into the late 19th Century.
So it dominated American visual culture
for over 50 years.
- Olana is one of the most magnificent places
in the country.
It's Frederic Church's home and studio
and 250 acre designed historic landscape.
Frederic Church was a founding figure
of American art.
His mentor was Thomas Cole.
(upbeat piano music)
- What we've done with this project is we've taken
the two founders of The Hudson River School
and connected them.
(relaxing upbeat music)
The Hudson River Skywalk is a literal connection,
a trail that you can walk on.
It's three miles one way.
Six miles, a really good workout if you do a roundtrip.
It's this true connection and trail that is open
to the public now for their enjoyment.
- The connection of these two sites is so fantastic
because they've been linked by history
and they've been linked by themes and by stories.
And Thomas Cole,
when he was in his 40s had this young student,
Frederic Church, who was still a teenager
and he took him over to the place
where Church would later build Olana
and showed him this magnificent landscape.
And so these two places have been intertwined
throughout the centuries and now people can think
of them in the same breath.
They can visit them in the same day.
They can walk between them.
- The Hudson River Skywalk concept began in 2015
when Olana and the Thomas Cole site
had a collaborative exhibition called
River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home.
And we were celebrating the opening of that exhibition.
The Bridge Authority folks were invited and present.
- These two artists are on opposite sides
of the river only divided by
This bridge is really a tourism asset
and should be promoted as such.
It had a walkway on it,
although a walkway to nowhere.
You couldn't go anywhere once you got to the other side.
But nonetheless, a spectacular experience.
- It was at that moment that the people in the room
who had hatched the whole idea of river crossings
began to see that this could be the future
of a new combined destination.
Many partners came together understanding
that it's art and art history,
that we have a historic treasure right here.
That's what motivated us all to get together
and work for two, three years.
- It was an uphill challenge because on the Olana side
of the bridge is a very busy intersection
with lots of highways coming in in all directions.
And we talked about it for a long time,
how would we get people over this busy intersection?
What could be do?
We talked about a bridge or a tunnel.
It became a beautiful park with a circle
and crosswalks, benches,
a sitting wall.
Instead of a place that you zoom through
it became a destination to stop
and appreciate the beauty that was there.
- The public can come and walk
across The Hudson River Skywalk experiencing
the three dimensional versions of the paintings
of The Hudson River School.
It's also a significant new economic engine
for our region.
The goal is to really create a new tourist destination
that will be nationally known,
if not internationally known that will draw people
from around the world and around the country
to this region.
And this region we're defining as The City of Hudson,
Olana, across the bridge to the Thomas Cole site
and then to the village of Catskill.
So the skywalk is really a great thing in the sense
that it builds on that infrastructure to create connection
between peoples and culture and history.
(dramatic upbeat music)
- The Hudson River School is a
loose affiliation of artists as well as the writers
that inspired them that had a thought that they shared,
which as that these landscapes here
are national treasures.
And that the beauty and the nature that we see
all around us in this country was something
that we should celebrate and something that could be lost.
They shared this belief also that by being in nature
it was a healing experience,
it was something that we as a country should experience more
and it could cause our spirits to be lifted,
it could cause a moral uplift in the citizens
of the United States and is something to be proud
of as a country.
I think what's so exciting about what's happening now
is that we've heard it.
We've heard this message and we do realize
that this is precious and that it's ephemeral
and it's easy to lose.
So projects like this,
The Hudson River Skywalk,
brings attention to the fact that this is here,
it is still available to us
by the efforts of so many people,
Scenic Hudson, New York State,
Olana, Thomas Cole.
So many people have worked on making sure
that this beauty is still here.
And this is an opportunity,
it's a giant platform to appreciate it from.
- We've just explored some of the region's creative minds,
people who are central figures in our creative economy.
They're smart, motivated and producing world class
artistic and cultural content right here
in the Capital Region,
a place that's inspired them,
motivated them and sustained them.
Maureen Sager is one of the driving forces
behind the growth of our creative economy.
She's the executive director
of the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy,
which is part of the Center for Economic Growth.
Welcome Maureen, can you help us tell the story
of the Capital Region's creative economy?
When did we first realize that creativity
was happening here?
Well, the first time that we started
to use that term creative economy was about seven years ago.
There was a report commissioned,
led by CEG,
The Center for Economic Growth
and The Community Foundation and a bunch of funders,
and they used this term,
this application of the creative economy
to size much more than what was considered
before the arts and culture segment.
It added things like digital media and design
which wasn't normally considered part of arts and culture
and culinary arts and agriculture.
And when they put that together and counted it,
finally did that quantification we found out
that it is the sixth,
now, the fourth largest employment sector here.
- This is something we've talked about a little earlier
in the program as well,
New York, San Francisco,
LA, these are the places that rank top
in terms of creative hubs in the United States.
Why here, why in the Capital Region?
Why has it come together in the Capital Region
the way it has?
- [Maureen] Sure.
- And why would it continue to flourish here?
- There's some statistics that are popping here
and it mostly comes from self-employed artists.
So the Metropolitan Statistical Area,
that is Albany,
Schenectady and Troy,
is the sixth highest concentration of self-employed artists
in the United States of America, that's here.
Cities are risk averse now.
The overhead is so high that it's churning
out their people faster than they're bringing them in.
New York City is shedding their residents faster
than any other city in the United States right now.
Over 200 people a day are leaving New York.
They have to go somewhere and they're coming here.
I'm one of those people who left the city
because of overhead.
That has made me into a really risk tolerant person
and you can start your own business,
as we can see
statistically. - You can afford the fell.
- Exactly and they're doing that here
and that's something you can't afford
to do in the city anymore.
I think that's definitely part of it,
statistically we're seeing that.
- Let's talk about freelancers.
I think in some ways what do freelancers look like?
Not the job description of a freelancer
but what does a freelancer typically
in our creative economy?
What defines that group?
What are some of the unique things about them?
- Right, there are two different types of freelancers.
One is someone who does that for their main source
of income and there are lots of people
like graphic designers who it's very common
to have a stable of clients that can support you full-time.
Then there's other people who are doing this
as a side hustle, right.
They have a full-time job that they like
but there's something that they like more
than their full-time job that they do at night,
be it playing music or starting their own company
or opening up their own coffee shop
'cause they want to find the place where they want
to have that cup of coffee.
- It is amazing to think of 16,000 entrepreneurs
in our region.
- Exactly and that's what they are, right.
- So we can certainly see the economic impact
that the group of freelancers has,
the 16,000 or so in the region.
But it's sometimes a little terrifying to be a freelancer.
With some of that risk comes uncertainty as well.
It seems like there are some unique things
that we could be doing to support the freelance community
as well, could you talk about that?
- Sure, there are conversations
about portable benefits, right.
The ACA has been great because you can get health insurance
and so that is something that a lot of people look backwards
and say that was the tipping point
where we could move easily into freelancing
permanent. - Before that
folks would just be limited
to conventional employment, for example.
- For sure.
You know what's strange?
When I was living in Los Angeles,
I was 25 in a bar with my friends all
of whom were screen writers
and none of us had health insurance.
And that's a really dangerous situation.
Someone told us that you could join
the New Mexico Cattle Ranchers Association
for 29 bucks and get health insurance.
And so we all became cattle ranchers.
That's what you had to do to get insurance back then.
- That does sound awesome by the way.
- It does, I've never even been to New Mexico.
But you had to do crazy things to get insurance
and now you don't have to do anything crazy.
You do have to go through,
every November you have to reregister,
but that's it.
And then you're free to,
you have some stability to go forward with that.
If we could extend that type of thing
to 401Ks, it disability income,
to all of that set of benefits
that traditional employee people have
we could really make this into a lifelong career path.
- Now tell us about the future, Maureen?
15 years out,
what do you see out there?
What should we be doing right now
to make that future a positive one for us?
- Yeah, we have one big idea that we think we've come to
because of the seven years of conversations
that we've been having.
It's based on this other set of economic data
which is that the world is urbanizing.
In the United States
the top 20 cities account for 66% of all new jobs.
66% of all economic activity takes place in just 50 markets.
These are markets that have a million people or more, right.
That is where people are going.
That's where talent is going.
You can't pay people enough to move
to a small market in many cases,
I'm sure that
people see that, right. - Yeah, that's a challenge
that we encounter.
- I'm sure and we hear this over and over again,
Fingerpaint Marketing had 77 open positions recently,
all really well paying jobs,
and they just couldn't get people to the region.
That's something we have to fix not just
for the creative industries but for all industries, right.
So we have those things that you need to become one
of those top markets.
We have a million people.
You need that,
that's the opening call,
you need that.
- And maybe we need to act with critical mass.
- We do.
- Act like a million people.
- We do and that's exactly what we need to do
and if we can do that there is nothing separating us
from those other cities and metro areas.
There's a lot of ways you can look at it and say,
oh, we'll never get there.
But if you can sit and rest in that message
for a minute as to what we could gain
by working together as a region
and look at these cities and towns as our neighborhoods
which are all glittering.
In New York every one of them's glittering.
You want them to be different.
You want them to be special and yet they all benefit
from being connected in that way.
We have that proposition and that's something
that we wanna talk about,
creating a regional brand here that's based
on creative economy because people and talent wanna move
to some place that is known for its creativity.
The top 50 markets,
you can name something about all of them about what
creativity's out there. - Creativity means
- We know that we have these cultural assets.
We know that we have the creative businesses.
We know that we have this young workforce.
We have everything we need and we're geographically,
what could be better?
- [Buha] Sure.
- Than where we are, right?
So this is what we wanna work on,
making this a connected place that we join
under one brand so that we can tell the world
just how great we are.
- Well, it was amazing to hear.
We have to put it into action and let's make it happen.
Thank you for being on the show with us today?
- Yeah, thank you so much.
- And thank you for joining us today
on our creative journey.
I've been your host, Guha Bala.
For more about the creative economy and to take a glimpse
of the work of more of the region's creative professionals
- [Narrator] Funding for Creative Capital,
Shaping the Region's Economy is provided
by the Bender Family Foundation.
Additional Support comes from.
- [Narrator] As a not-for-profit health plan
MVP is working to provide health coverage
that is convenient,
supportive and personal,
the way it should be.
More information at mvphealthcare.com.