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New Study: Suncoast arts and culture brings $350M to economy

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It's no secret: the Suncoast is known as Florida's Cultural Coast for offering some unique, world-class arts and cultural experiences in a relatively small area. Now an extensive national study is revealing just how much of an economic impact these organizations are having on the Suncoast.

Sarasota and Manatee counties together are pumping almost $350 million into the local economy every single year. Not only that, but the arts and culture scene is creating thousands of full time jobs and drawing millions of visitors to the area.

Beaches aside, when you think of Sarasota County the Ringling Museum, Asolo Theatre and the Florida Studio Theatre may come to mind. They're all beacons of Sarasota's arts and culture scene. Together, according to a study done by the Americans for the Arts, these organizations are creating a $295 million economic boost for the community. That's a 60 percent increase from 2010.

"There are very few places in the country that match the offerings that Sarasota county offers to our people," Jim Shirley, executive director for the Arts and Culture Alliance of Sarasota County says.

The significant growth is attributed to a post-recession boom.  Shirley points out that people can travel more now that the economy is recovering, and Sarasota gives them a reason to travel here. 50 percent of event attendees aren't locals.

"If you look at the spending by the tourist that comes for cultural reasons, the cultural tourist spends significantly more money than the non-traditional tourist," Shirley says.

Manatee County isn't far behind. With the South Florida Museum, Manatee Performing Arts Center and an abundance of arts on the islands, the county's arts and culture scene is creating a nearly $50 million economic boost every year.

"Last time Manatee County participated, it was 2007 and our impact nearly doubled in that period of time," Jodi Carroll, special projects manager for Realize Bradenton says.

Realize Bradenton is attributing the success to intergovernmental cooperation.

"The city, the county, the EDC and Realize Bradenton are all working together to enhance the quality of life and livability and the reason people want to come to manatee county," Carroll says.

Together, the arts and culture in Manatee and Sarasota counties support more than 8,500 full-time equivalent jobs and draw more than 1.6 million people to the Suncoast.

Obviously when these visitors come to the Suncoast for the arts and culture, that's not the only thing they're spending money on while they're here. According to this study, visitors spend an average of $45 on things like meals, lodging and transportation while they're here.

Click here to see Sarasota County's detailed results

Click here to see Manatee County's detailed results