Why City Funding?

City of Hillsboro Operating Support Request:

Why?

As some of you may know, Hillsboro’s City Council Finance Committee voted this week to provide Bag&Baggage with a $30,000 one-time operating support grant and recommended to the full council that the City consider giving B&B ongoing operating support in the same amount annually. This would be a fantastic development for B&B, in our Fifth Season, and one that would have long-term benefits for both the company, our audiences and our community.
Some people have responded to this development by saying that such a contribution from the City is inappropriate or somehow unfair. I wanted to take a few moments to layout the facts of our request and the reasons why we approached the City, at this time and for this amount, in the hopes that it will help to clarify a few issues.
Request Amount: Why $30,000?
Bag&Baggage Productions is currently engaged in a major 3-year Advancement Campaign project. This project involves multiple requests to some of the Northwest’s largest and most prestigious Foundations and Trusts (including the Meyer Memorial Trust, the Murdock Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation and the Collins Foundation) to fund a major and much needed expansion of our staffing capacity. In total, our campaign is seeking more than $500,000 over the next three years to fund the expansion of our staff, including hiring a new Development Officer and Marketing Officer.
Feedback from these funders has been clear and explicit: without significant Operating Support commitments from local municipalities, our funding requests are unlikely to succeed.
The rationale is clear: why would major Foundations and Trusts provide multiple year funding commitments to Bag&Baggage when there is no consistent funding from the local governments who benefit most from our services? How can these Foundations trust that Bag&Baggage will be financially strong and have the kind of longevity that other arts and culture groups possess due to Operating Support commitments from their local governments? The answer is equally clear: without significant Operating Support commitments, Bag&Baggage is seen as less stable than other arts groups who possess direct funding relationships with their local governments.
Our request to the City of Hillsboro represents approximately 10% of our total Operating budget. When combined with the Regional Arts and Culture Council’s annual Operating Support grant (awarded last year and given annually in July) of approximately $10,000, the City of Hillsboro’s contribution of $30,000 will enable us to claim nearly 15% of our Operating budget confirmed annually. This amount will be seen as a significant indicator of our financial health and a strong commitment from local governments to the long term success of Bag&Baggage. It is ultimately a powerful tool for leveraging future funding. A lesser amount will still be useful to our bottom line, but anything less than 10% will not be recognized as significant support by other major funders.
It is crucial to note that many, many, many municipalities in Oregon and across the nation have such direct funding relationships with non-profit arts groups. Portland, Eugene, Medford, Ashland, Bend…all of these communities (and more) have special funding relationships with non-profit groups. It may also come as a surprise to some that Hillsboro ALSO has these relationships and have for many years. Our request for funding is not historic, nor is it unique. In fact, we are simply asking for the City to recognize the value of B&B in the same way it does many of our colleagues in the arts and culture.
Is $30,000 An Appropriate Funding Amount?
As I have said, the City of Hillsboro already has a number of special funding relationships with other arts and culture groups in the City (both private and public providers of cultural experiences). Our request for $30,000 is only a few thousand dollars more than some of those existing funding agreements and is significantly less than many others. In fact, our request for $30,000 is approximately the median amount of current funding arrangements. We at B&B strongly (I repeat, STRONGLY) support these relationships. We believe that (for Hillsboro specifically) that the work produced by our colleagues listed below creates significant benefit to the City, to our citizens and to our community.
As an example of “return on investment,” consider the following information about City support and comparative attendance figures:
Arts Group City Funding/Value Annual Attendance
Bag&Baggage Productions $3,000 (HACC Grant) 17,500 plus 4,000 students
Sequoia $20,000 3,000
HART Theatre $24,000 1,600
Hillsboro Community Foundation $50,000 annually for 3 years n/a
Washington County Museum $160,000 (estimate) 8,000
Walters Arts Center $570,000
12,500 ticket-buyers plus free event attendees

 

So…. Bag&Baggage is the most popular arts group in the City of Hillsboro but, remarkably, we receive the smallest contribution from the City of Hillsboro (of these groups) and those funds are not guaranteed (we apply for funding via competitive grants through the Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council).

 

Consider this: The City provides a $15 per ticket subsidy for HART, a $20 per patron subsidy for the Museum and a $6 subsidy for visitors to Sequoia. Currently, the City subsidizes B&B at $.17 per ticket/patron. Our request for $30,000 in funding equates to $1.17 per patron, making us the least subsidized arts group in the City.

 

And we STRONGLY support these funding relationships and will actively and passionately advocate for them ALL to be continued; we believe in the value of HART, Sequoia, the Museum and the Walters Center.

Other Return On Investment for the City of Hillsboro
Bag&Baggage is not simply a provider of arts experiences for the people of Hillsboro. In fact, we take our role as a tourist destination, employer and profile-raiser for the City very seriously.
We are one of the only arts groups in Hillsboro who regularly engage in audience surveys, economic impact studies, press coverage analysis and ticket-buyer profiling; these activities help strengthen our case for Operating Support from the City of Hillsboro. Here are a few of the more important results of that research:
·        68% of our audiences are from within Hillsboro, 15% from Washington County and 17% of our audiences come from outside of Washington County;
·        Bag&Baggage has twice been recognized by the Washington County Visitors Association as the Arts and Culture Attraction of the year, in part due to our efforts at attracting cultural tourists to our performances;
·        Audience survey results indicate that 72% of our audience members visit local restaurants and downtown shopping as part of their attendance at our shows, generating significant financial impacts for local retailers;
·        Our TEN4ONE education program is unique in the state and is one of the most successful outreach programs in Oregon. The program provides up to 4,000 free tickets to any high school student at 10 participating western Washington high schools. Any student from these high schools can walk up to our box office, show a valid student id and they will receive a free ticket. This program augments our local school’s efforts to expose students to challenging professional performing arts and we are incredibly proud of our commitment to the students of Hillsboro who…ultimately…will be arts patrons of the future;
·        Bag&Baggage consistently receives excellent press coverage both in local newspapers (the Argus and the Hillsboro Tribune), but also receives regional and national press coverage (including the Oregonian, the Portland Monthly, the Corvallis Gazette Times and specialty arts/theatre publications such as New York Stage, Stage Magazine, Stage Directors and Choreographers Magazine, Theatre Magazine, and more). This coverage raises the profile of the company regionally and nationally, helps attract more audiences and raises the profile of the City of Hillsboro as a destination and as a livable community;
·        Bag&Baggage works in close partnership with dozens of Hillsboro and Washington County arts groups in collaborative marketing efforts, including Stages Youth Theatre, Sequoia Gallery, HART Theatre, Broadway Rose, the Washington County Museum, Portland Center Stage, ART Theatre, Third Rail, the Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Portland Opera, the Portland Symphony and others. These efforts not only raise the profile of B&B, but gives our audiences access to information about other arts and culture events across the Portland-metro area;
·        Bag&Baggage works closely with other non-profit organizations to help promote charitable causes, such as the Hillsboro Schools Foundation, City View Charter School, the Virginia Garcia Clinic, DePaul Treatment centers, and donates tickets to a huge range of fundraising events such as the Hillsboro Rotary, Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce and others. We give back to our community, as often and as much as we can.
Bag&Baggage: A Growing Reputation for Excellence
Over the past five years, Bag&Baggage’s reputation for excellence in performing arts has grown exponentially. In fact, the organization is poised to transform from a scrappy, suburban theatre into a truly statewide and nationally relevant theatre company with a unique mission and a national reputation for excellence. Already, our work is gaining notoriety for excellence, ambition and skill.
Recent press coverage and critical reviews of our work have included the following:
The Oregonian’s Editorial Board on our TEN4ONE education program:
“This is no device for padding the attendance numbers… Instead it is an outreach by Bag&Baggage to extend the franchise to those who might not otherwise experience live theatre and its surprises, intimacies and engagement. This is just the right kind of grassfire in the arts. Students and schools can be grateful — but so, too, can a wider community that depends on so much more than making the bottom line.”
The Portland Monthly on Kabuki-Titus:
“They are sneaky, confident, outspoken, skilled, and happy to rile… gaining notoriety for innovation, daring, and craftsmanship to match any Portland theater…Bag&Baggage is a regional powerhouse.”
The Oregonian on Of Mice and Men:
“Given the election-season debates over joblessness, recession, social responsibility and American individualism, it’s easy to see the value of revisiting John Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic, “Of Mice and Men.” Certainly, this play is the product of another time, but as much as it recalls the troubled 1930s it can speak to us now — a fact demonstrated by Bag&Baggage’s moving production of this formidable drama … Steinbeck gives us characters who struggle against isolation and loneliness and who search futilely for deep human connections. Palmer and his very able cast trace with sensitivity and power the characters’ failed efforts to overcome despair.”
The Willamette Week on The Tempest, or The Enchanted Isle
“Director and founder Scott Palmer’s update of William Davenant and John Dryden’s 1667 adaptation—which re-tinkered the fantastical tragicomedy into a wildly popular Restoration-era political farce before virtually becoming a lost text—is a bawdy riot full of winking innuendos and enough prissy, glam-rock bravado to make Bowie rip his tights…Bag&Baggage should be applauded for crafting this unique and utterly batty comedy. The Bard, methinks, would abide.”
The Willamette Week on Shakespeare’s R&J:
“Were R&J simply a well-acted performance, it would be exceptional. That it manages to make fresh that which is stagnant and wholly invigorates throughout is remarkable. It reminds you why people fell in love with the story to begin with…”
The Portland Monthly on Shakespeare’s R&J:
“I don’t say this lightly: Google map Hillsboro’s Venetian Theatre, get in your car, and go see Bag&Baggage’s production of Shakespeare’s R&J before it’s over next weekend. Like no adaptation I’ve seen, it re-instills the raw, dangerous, thrilling, and emotional poignancy that the story has lost…I understand: Hillsboro is a haul. Perhaps make an outing of it with dinner and drinks at the Venetian’s vaulted restaurant. But if you want to understand what it’s like to watch Romeo and Juliet for the first time again, untainted by all the predecessors, make the trip.”
New York’s Simply Show Biz on The Tempest, or the Enchanted Isle
“Audiences stand a better chance of catching Halley’s Comet twice in the same lifetime than of seeing this almost lost Restoration-era classic. Palmer’s approach to Shakespeare is truly unique, stressing our relationship to the Bard and the Bard’s relationship to drama, all at the same time.”
Bag&Baggage: Economic Impact of Our Work in Hillsboro[1]
The Regional Arts and Culture Council provides all Operating Support granted organizations with an “Economic Impact” calculator to determine their ratio of economic impact for the greater Portland metropolitan area. Using this formula, Bag&Baggage (at current funding levels) provides the following economic benefit to Hillsboro:
Bag&Baggage Direct Spending (Operating Budget) Economic Impact
Economic Impact Category Multiplier (Greater Portland) Bag&Baggage Result
Full Time Equivalent Jobs 3.72 11.5 fte equivalent
Resident Household Income $76,776 $230,000
Local Government Revenue $4,039 $12,000
State Government Revenue $4,888 $14,600
TOTAL $256,600
Additional economic impact comes from average per-person event-related spending. These figures are based on total estimated audience multiplied by average per-person expenditures for the Greater Portland area. Using this formula, Bag&Baggage audiences (at current audience levels) provides the following economic impact to Hillsboro:
Bag&Baggage Audience Spending Economic Impact (Direct Spending)
Economic Impact Category Multiplier (Greater Portland) Bag&Baggage Result
Refreshment $1.88 $32,900
Meals (before/after) $11.44 $200,200
Souvenirs/Gifts $2.99 $52,325
Clothing/Accessories $1.75 $30,625
Ground Transportation $2.51 $43,925
Event-related child care $0.46 $8,050
Overnight lodging (one night) $2.67 $46,725
Other $0.54 $9,450
TOTAL $24.24
$424,200

 

These figures can then be used to determine the FTE impact of our audience spending on Hillsboro:
Bag&Baggage Audience Spending Economic Impact (FTE Direct and Indirect)
Economic Impact Category Multiplier (Greater Portland) Audience Spending Result
Full Time Equivalent Jobs 2.71 15.7 fte equivalent
Resident Household Income $51,910 $814,000
Local Government Revenue $4,342 $68,000
State Government Revenue $3,733 $58,600
Total
$940,600
Conclusion
We understand that many people who live in Hillsboro have ideas about how City funds should best be spent. We also understand that, for some, the performing arts may not be a priority. I believe, and many of our patrons agree, that Bag&Baggage is more than just “putting on plays.” We are a cultural expression of Hillsboro, an economic engine for downtown Hillsboro, a tourist destination for travelers, a committed partner to our schools and other non-profits, and a powerful and dedicated advocate for all of the arts in Washington County.
Also, for those who advocate that the funding we may receive from the City would better be spent on fixing street lights, hiring more police officers, providing services to the elderly or installing new bike racks downtown I can only say this: We support those values, too.  However, the City’s 2020 plan includes an enormous range of important priorities and it is not in the City of Hillsboro’s (or any City, for that matter) interest to be singularly focused. In fact, the people of Hillsboro have spoken and made their priorities clear through the 2020 plan, and arts and culture experiences are a key part of what Hillsboro wants for Hillsboro’s future. We are excited and honored to be a part of that future.
Finally, I would just say that our request does not reflect a radical new City funding model. In fact, we are simply asking to be included, alongside our colleagues in the arts who receive funding from the City, in that special group of organizations seen by our community as key part of the cultural fabric of this wonderful place  that we call home.
S

 

[1] Based on RACC’s formula, non-profit arts groups divide their total annual budget by $100,000 and multiply that result by the assessed FTE, resident household income, and revenue figures determined by the included ratios. Details of this “Economic Impact Calculator” can be found at www.racc.org/sites/default/files/AEP3calculator.pdf