Thursday, April 10

Attracting New Talent

Guest writer Shayla Perreault Newcomb: A letter to the editor, published in the April '08 of Progress magazine. While the focus is on Atlantic Canada, the issue is of an international nature.

I found your article "Here to Stay" in the December/January issue very relevant. It's encouraging to see that the Halifax group Fusion not only aims to address issues of city planning but also recognizes the sometimes forgotten role that arts and culture play in attracting new talent to the Atlantic region.

I've met many business people who are skeptical. Are the arts truly important in attracting bright minds to work in our cities? The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has stated: "Quality-of-life issues are enormously important to business throughout the provinces in order to attract and retain employees and their families to live and work in our communities. This factor is just as critical for a small mill town as it is for a big city competing for major head office reallocations. Families want to stay in communities that are rich and diverse with significant opportunities for personal development, including music, dance, drama, and visual arts."

Perhaps the arts are still seen as solely a "social responsibility." This is a mistake. As your article points out, attracting new talent "has moved beyond being simply the right thing to do." Economist Richard Florida said in his book The Rise of the Creative Class that paying attention to "quality of place" is not a form of charity. Businesses, corporations, suburbs, and cities "are doing so for hard-nosed economic reasons- to attract the talented people and thus the companies that power growth in today's economy."

Does this apply to the micro view of a business owner? Design has been shown to have a powerful impact on how employees view their company and what values they believe it stands for. Architecture, environment, original artwork, and excellent lighting help reduce the number of sick-leave days taken, increase efficiency, and sharpen problem-solving skills.

Scientist Dr. Arthur Carty, the president of the National Research Council of Canada, once said this: "The arts have a way of opening the mind. The stimulate the synapses and make one more receptive to creativity. As a scientist, I want my imagination rekindled. I want to be shown how to look at things in new ways. And I believe my capacity for innovation and creativity in my own discipline will grow as a result. At a time when Canada is racing to keep at the forefront of knowledge and innovation, I would say that this reason alone should make every policy-maker a champion of the arts." This shows that not only is the employee satisfied but the business owner is also amply rewarded.

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