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creative:impact - Dingell’s CREATE Act to be introduced to Congress

Debbie Dingell
Wikipedia Media Commons

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-12) knows that the rapidly changing U.S. economy requires investment in small business that specialize in creative industries. She is sponsoring the CREATE Act, with bipartisan support, to extend to services and programs afforded other sectors to artists, creative workers, and businesses. Hear the details when Mrs. Dingell joins "creative:impact" host Deb Polich of Creative Washtenaw.

Deb Polich
Deb Polich, President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.


Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy Act of 2021


The rapidly changing U.S. Economy needs investment in small business that specialize in creative industries: As the economy continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States needs to provide resources to invest in those who specialize in creative industries. Through the CREATE Act, small- and micro-businesses will have access to the resources needed to generate innovative economic activity in a resurging economy. 

Investing in the creative economy will bolster local communities with sustainable jobs: The creative economy describes those businesses whose origin is in individual creativity, skill, talent, or expression of indigenous culture or regional or local heritage culture; and who operate or endeavor to operate creative economy businesses.  As of 2016, the creative economy adds $804.2 billion a year to our nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and has a rate of growth that nearly doubles the rest of our economy.[1] In 2019, the value-add of the creative economy was five times greater compared to the agriculture sector.[2] This has occurred despite federal small business and economic development policies largely ignoring the needs of the creative economy sector.  As the creative economy has had a rate of growth that nearly doubled the rest of our economy prior to the pandemic, now is the time to invest in this sector as it recovers.

Investing in existing enterprises, fostering the growth of new businesses, and providing strategic developmental resources will help revitalize and strengthen both our national and local economies now and into the future. 

Bill Provisions

To address these findings The CREATE Act:

  • Expands the Microloan Program qualifications to include artists and arts entrepreneurs, or small businesses, that support the creative economy;
  • Provides support to State, regional, and local art agencies, artist, and creative workers through traditional economic development tools;
  • Directs the Small Business Administration (SBA) to develop procedures on evaluating the business proposals and plans of non-employer business and small business concerns that focus on varying aspects with regard to the creative economy;
  • Additionally task the SBA with partnering with relevant stake holders to develop a technical assistance program that targets the specific needs of artist and arts entrepreneurs; and
  • Establishes a demonstration program to assess the feasibility of providing planning grants support to local arts agencies and nonprofits.

Endorsing Organizations: Americans for the Arts


Rep. Debbie Dingell

CREATE Act of 2021

COVID-19’s Pandemic's Impact on The Arts: Research Update January 10, 2022

Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on WEMU, eighty nine point one FM. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your solo host until David returns. Thank you for listening each week as we welcome creative guests and those who value the impact and importance of the arts and creative industries. Congressman--sorry, Congresswoman--Debbie Dingell has a long record of supporting this sector. Tomorrow, she introduces legislation to Congress that will provide resources to invest in those who specialize in the arts and creative industries. Mrs. Dingell is here to tell us about the CREATE Act legislation. Mrs. Dingell, welcome to creative:impact. 

Debbie Dingell: Well, good morning, Deb. Good morning to everybody. It's great to talk to you, and let's just stick to Debbie. Yes, very good first names and I'm not into that. 

Deb Polich: Exactly. The Debs. OK, Deb squared. 

Debbie Dingell: Only when caucus is in the House. 

Deb Polich: Exactly. That's great. So, this is not your first attempt to get this legislation through. In fact, when you and Senator Udall introduced the Creative Act in 2017, we had you on the show to talk about it. First, thank you for continuing your effort. And, second, what, if anything, has changed now in 2022? And why are you hopeful that this creative effort will be successful? 

Debbie Dingell: First of all, I want to say that getting any piece of legislation done that is major change takes time, and some of the most important pieces of legislation we've seen passed in our nation's country takes time. So, you have to be steady. You can't give up. You got to keep working. You got to build. You got to go fishing. You got to raise public awareness, and that's part of what you and I are doing this morning. And I'll just tell you that the first Medicare bill--Universal Health Care Bill--was introduced right after Social Security in the 1940s, and it didn't passed in 1965. 

Deb Polich: Well, let's hope we're speedier than that.

Debbie Dingell: We got to be speedier than that, but I'm just trying to say that, you know, because you don't get it done that next day. And I am somebody that's not known for exactly being impatient. You don't give up. But I do believe that the pandemic has shined a light on the need to support a number of critical areas, and that we've got to support them in that they're both businesses, but enhancing the quality of our our community sights. And I think that the arts and the creative industries are more important than they've ever been. There what people are reaching out to to kind of cope in the middle of this pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has touched all corners of our state. We all know that. But the arts and the creative industries were among the first sectors to shut their doors. And I think that it's not just people like you and me who care about these issues desperately, but, now more than ever, I think other people understand how critical it is that we invest in this industry and that we ensure the creative arts producers have the resources they need to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the years ahead and that we need to let the arts employ tens of thousands of Michiganders and that they play a fundamental role in shaping our culture, attracting tourists, creating jobs. And that's why this bill is so important. And I think we're going to find people who just need whatever aspect of their life that it touches, which is, you know, brings comfort for some, smiles, peace, that they're really going to support this this time, and we'll work to get it passed. 

Deb Polich: So, this is set in the Small Business Administration, if I've read the documents properly. Rather than in an agency like the National Endowment for the Arts or IMLS or something like that, and it focuses on economic development tools that are currently offered at other industries. What are some of the provisions you're hoping to pass? 

Debbie Dingell: So, what this bill does is ensure that the creative sector has access to federal resources. What we want to do with it is to stabilize struggling entrepreneurs. We want to foster the growth of new creative businesses, and people need to think about that. You know, the most important part of the auto industry is that design studio, where those autos are being designed. 

Deb Polich: Sure.

Debbie Dingell: And we want to strengthen our national and local economy. So, we want to expand the micro loan program, cross-check qualifications to include artists and art entrepreneurs, small businesses that support the creative economy. We want to provide support to the state, regional, and local art agencies, artists, creative workers through the traditional economic development tools, which is why we are directing the SBA to develop procedures on evaluating the business proposals and plans of non-employer business and small business concerns that focus on the various aspects with regard to the creative economy. 

Deb Polich: This is creative:impact on WEMU eighty nine point one F. M. Our guest is Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and she's here telling us about the CREATE Act, which she will introduce to Congress tomorrow and its efforts to extend economic development tools afforded other industries to the arts and creative industries. You know, advocacy efforts during COVID led to one significant development, which was the $16 billion shuttered venues operating grants. It, too, was managed by the SBA and is beneficial as that program was in keeping local stages alive, the rollout by the SBA was painful, and many of us believe it was in large part because the SBA did not have arts and creative expertize on staff who know our businesses and the subtleties about it. Do you think that the SBA should or will hire that expertize to manage programs outlined in the CREATE Act? 

Debbie Dingell: So, I want to say two things as we're talking about this, Deb. First of all, the SBA did a very bad job on rolling it out to begin with. And you know, there were many small businesses in the Washtenaw community where we're talking about this that had a lot of difficult times. I was getting, you know, literally 100 calls. 

Deb Polich: I'll bet. 

Debbie Dingell: So, it was, you know, restaurants who really have been hurt by this or are still struggling too. 

Deb Polich: Sure.

Debbie Dingell: But, we are in this legislation asking the SBA to partner with the relevant stakeholders to develop a technical assistance program that targets the specific needs of artists and art entrepreneurs, and to get an established demonstration program that would assess the feasibility of providing these planning grants to support the local agencies and nonprofits, so that we help them develop that expertize that you're saying what was missing there. I just don't want people to listen to this, especially other small businesses, and say, "Hey, what about us?" We need to worry about everybody. And we do need to make sure we nurture such an important, especially in Washtenaw County, are such an important backbone of our economy. Their fabric contributes to the quality of life, why people move to Washtenaw, and they really the arts, define our life, our culture. So, we got to support them, and we want to make sure that they're treated as a small business like so many others are, and that they have the same opportunity for success. And all of our small businesses are still hurting. And I want everybody listening to know I'm really working on that, too. 

Deb Polich: Absolutely. And I, as you know, consider nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, but also there are so many creative businesses that are indeed small businesses. So, I want to support what you're saying and to emphasize that. You know, the SBA is a different agency than what we've traditionally funded nonprofit arts organizations from the National Endowment for the Arts. How do you see these agencies working together to move this arts and creative agenda forward? 

Debbie Dingell: Very closely, I hope. I have, you know, worked with people on the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Arts. Our work, as you know, you and I have known each other. We're not old, but we are seasoned, and we've worked together on a lot of things over the years, and they need to be integrated, and they need to do what we all need to be doing is finding better ways to work together, to not be in silos. But how do we bring all of the different skill sets, the opportunities, together to make the strongest programs possible? And so, you know, the Advocate for the Arts and some of these national organizations, they want to make sure that we're supporting the arts in our country. They've got an expertize, but, also, arts can be a business. Nonprofits are a business. They're in business to make money. 

Deb Polich: Absolutely. 

Debbie Dingell: And we got to help them have the business skills and the business investment, you know, that they need. I mean, the creative economy describes businesses whose origin is in the individual creativity, skill, talent, expression of culture, or the regional or local heritage culture. But they operate to operate a creative economy business and that's what need to be talking about more. 

Deb Polich: Most certainly. So, I sit on a couple of national advocacy initiatives for the arts and creative industries, so connected to lots of people. How can we, those of us in the field that are doing this work, as well as people like yourself who are advocates and supporters of arts and creative industries, help get this CREATE act passed? 

Debbie Dingell: Well, you need to talk to people. You need to talk to your elected officials and tell them about why this matters. Let me just give you a couple of facts. As of 2/16, the creative economy added $804.2 billion to our nation's gross domestic product, and it has a rate of growth that nearly doubled the rest of the economy. In 2/19, the value add of the creative economy was five times greater compared to the agricultural sector. And this has occurred despite federal small business and economic development policies largely ignoring the needs of the creative economy sector. 

Deb Polich: Thank you so much for your public service and your support of the arts and creative industries. It's an honor to be here on the air with you, and thank you. 

Debbie Dingell: Deb, I thank you, but I want to thank you with everybody listening. You don't know how much this woman does for you and has been doing. I don't want to say for decades, though it is, because I don't want either of us to feel seasoned. But this woman has been doing a lot for so many in our lives in Washtenaw, Michigan, and the country. We're better off for everything you've done.

Deb Polich: Well, that's very kind of you. That's Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Tomorrow, she introduces the CREATE Act legislation into Congress to support the arts and creative industries. Learn more about Mrs. Dingell and the CREATE Act at WEMU dot org. And this is your community NPR Radio Station, 89 one WEMU and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti. 

Credit Deb Polich / Creative Washtenaw
Creative Washtenaw
Rep. Debbie Dingell with Deb Polich's grandkids, Ila and Brooks Goodson, at the the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum exhibit opening in August 2021.


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Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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