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The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and Mississippi Arts Commission are offering the state’s first Creative Economy Summit this week that will include the unveiling of a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study of Mississippi’s creative industries.

Communities such as Oxford, Meridian and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have found success in growing their “creative economy” — adding jobs and enhancing communities’ quality of life by supporting and growing businesses that incorporate creativity and innovation. Now, the state is aiming to quantify Mississippi’s creative economy and assess its potential for growth.

The Creative Economy Summit will be held Wednesday at the Jackson Convention Complex. The summit, which will run from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., will offer numerous speakers and presenters, breakout sessions and will conclude with a new Blues Trail marker unveiling at the King Edward Hotel in downtown Jackson.

“This summit is a first for Mississippi, and something I’ve wanted to see since I took this position,” said Malcolm White, executive director of the MAC.

White said, in addition to making public the study’s findings, the event’s primary goal is simply introduce the creative economy concept.

“This is still relatively new,” White said. “A few states have done some work in this area over the last few years.

“The study is also unique. We have looked at the economic impact of non-profit (creative industries) in Mississippi. This one, for the first time, also looks at the for-profits, too.”

White said the study was still being tweaked at press time. The study began back in 2009, and researchers are amending the study to include the latest census numbers.

He hopes the final study is complete before the summit, but White stressed that “it is a moving target” and will always need to be updated over time.

So, what is the creative economy? John Howkins, author of “The Creative Economy,” said, “The creative economy is based on a new way of thinking and doing. The primary inputs are our individual talent or skill. These inputs may be familiar or novel; what is more important is that our creativity transforms them in novel ways. In some sectors the output value depends on their uniqueness; in others, on how easily it can be copied and sold to large numbers of people.”

Thus, the creative economy includes not only art, music and literature, but also architecture, interior design, publishing, research and development — any work that incorporates creativity and innovation.

White pointed out that Peavey Electronics in Meridian and Viking Range in Greenwood incorporate high-end design in their products and, thus, are part of the creative economy. Stennis Space Center and the University of Mississippi Medical Center are other institutions White emphasized.

“Public relations firms are designing web sites and logos every day. That is all included,” said White, who also owns the iconic Hal & Mal’s Restaurant in Jackson, which caters to local musicians and artists and is housed in a former abandoned warehouse.

“Mississippi has a tremendous untapped potential,” said Dr. Stuart Rosenfeld, principal and founder of Regional Technology Strategies Inc., the Carrboro, N.C.-based firm that conducted the creative economy study for the state.

Rosenfeld said the state’s next step is to expand and aggressively market its creative industries. Rosenfeld, who will present “Success stories: How Other States Are Growing Their Creative Economies” at the summit, pointed to Mississippi’s Blues and Country Music trails and the new filmmaking incentives as positive examples of the state trying to enhance its creative economy. Now, he says the state needs to first acknowledge its creative industries and then support them to add jobs and bring in more revenue.

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