Corporate flight brings new arts demand to newer communities

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

It wasn't all smiles and congratulations when Greyhound Bus Lines top management decided to relocate its corporate offices to Phoenix from Chicago in the early 1970s. There were some hard feelings among those who didn't want to move. Some of those hard feelings still exist.

Howard (not his real name) visited Phoenix at the time of the initial announcement of the move, and he says he found ''no cultural life'' of the kind he had grown accustomed to in his native Chicago. He chose to quit Greyhound and , after a number of different jobs, now has his own company in Chicago.

''You can play golf 365 days a year in Phoenix,'' he says. ''At least, that was the line I heard from my boss. But I don't play golf - and, anyway, what else is there to do?''

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Most Greyhound employees moved with the company, but the lesson here wasn't lost on the bus line's top brass. In the 10 years it has been in Phoenix, Greyhound has engaged in a program of contributions to civic, education, and cultural institutions intended to enhance the quality of life for its employees. Aiding the arts has proved to be good both for business and morale.

The flight of corporations (and their employees) from older urban centers, such as Chicago and New York, to areas where taxes and labor costs are lower has brought new demands on these locales. Many corporate employees have moved from metropolitan areas where the arts are readily accessible to areas where cultural activities are in shorter supply.

Many employees who have moved with their companies have felt the same discomfort Howard noted. Ordinarily contented, they are disgruntled by moves that aided their companies but not them. There is a sense that their life styles are being molded by their employers.

''A corporation selects an area to relocate based on desirability,'' remarks Judith Jedlicka, president of the nonprofit Business Committee for the Arts. ''They go for economic reasons, to enhance their ability to make money, to be closer to their market or supplies.''

But, she added, businesses that relocate assume a broader responsibility to their employees. ''It's important that they ensure a satisfactory style of living for the people working for them,'' she says. ''You know, management employees move around a lot, and if they don't like the area a corporation has moved to, they'll leave. It costs a lot of money for a company to find the right person, and you do what you can to keep them there.''

In the past year, corporations have contributed approximately $500 million to arts organizations and activities, up from $110 million in 1970. Businesses are entitled to deduct up to 10 percent of their pretax earnings for charitable contributions, and many cities have sought to persuade companies to do just that , aiding the arts as well as other areas in need.

Increasingly, corporations have established departments solely concerned with charitable contributions. Henry Stanley, manager of corporate contributions for Georgia-Pacific Corporation, which moved recently from Portland, Ore., to Atlanta, Ga., is frequently in touch with several Atlanta city agencies about ways the company might aid arts activities.

''We looked to come into Atlanta as a good neighbor,'' he says, adding that Georgia-Pacific's concept of neighborliness meant contributing several hundred thousand dollars in contributions to the community, including more than $30,000 for the arts.

Mr. Stanley noted that ''corporate contributions are an important part of public and community relations, and the arts are a growing part of that picture, '' though the company is still studying where to best put its money.

Between 200 and 300 corporations have relocated to Atlanta since 1975. This has given the city a boom in office and home building and put pressure on the essential services - police, fire, and sanitation - as well as cultural services to meet the needs of the expanding populace.

Georgia allocates only 21 cents a person for arts activities throughout the state, and it would take several years for it to be able to raise enough money to significantly increase the state arts council budget. The Atlanta Department of Cultural Affairs spends $500,000 annually supporting municipal arts institutions, and its director, Shirley Franklin, says two or three times that amount would be required to adequately provide cultural services for a city of Atlanta's size.

Atlanta, as well as a number of other growing cities, is faced with the dilemma of what would be the best way to get more money for arts support. These cities can either tax the new companies more to pay for arts activities or try to push the corporations to make the contributions themselves.

Local governments are generally reluctant about new taxes, because many of the companies moved there in the first place to escape heavy taxation. They prefer to encourage local initiative by the businesses, hoping to direct corporate contributions to where they feel the money is most needed.

Ms. Franklin says her department recently began a Metro-Arts Fund of corporate contributions allocated by a governing body of business and civic leaders. The money is used to support ongoing programs, such as theater and musical groups and museums. Her own department has remained important, she says, because it directs its funds toward helping new organizations work with the Metro-Arts Fund.

''Very definitely, the private corporations get the ball rolling in Houston in terms of arts support,'' says Mary Ann Tiacentini, director of the Arts Council of Houston, a city which has seen hundreds of companies relocate there from all over the country. ''We can't compete with Exxon and Shell. We just want to work with them.''

The Arts Council has $1.5 million to disperse to the city's major cultural institutions. This money, derived from the municipal hotel-motel occupancy tax, only covers 5 percent of these institutions' operating budgets. Houston corporations give three times as much. Among the most important activities performed by the Arts Council, Ms. Tiacentini says, is to help the local corporations make their contributions.

''A lot of times, companies don't know how to judge the quality of an arts organization,'' she said. ''Some smaller and newer organizations don't have the track record of, say, a major symphony, and we help the corporations get all the facts.''

The process, however, doesn't always work out so smoothly, because corporations and municipalities sometimes are aiming at different goals.

''Companies generally don't take a needs assessment of the community,'' says Anthony Keller, executive director of the Connecticut Arts Commission. ''The broad cultural development of a city - which may include aiding minority arts activities, for instance - are subordinated to more traditional arts activities, a symphony orchestra or fine-arts museum, which are to corporate leaders the landmarks of a cultured city.''

''Corporations want to be seen as a responsible and sensitive citizen,'' Judith Jedlicka notes, ''but the public they serve is different from the public that city officials serve. When Andrew Carnegie was giving away money, he was not held accountable to anyone. It was his own money. But now the corporate-contributions officer must be able to explain to stockholders why money was given to a certain organization. You run the risk of being accused of not serving the corporation's interests.''

Tom Latimer, manager of contributions for Champion International Corporation, which has been in Stamford, Conn., since 1976, put it: ''We're not interested in a government agency deciding where our money goes, because we lose control over it. We decide whom we employ, what suppliers we use, where we want our corporate offices. Why shouldn't we be the ones to decide what arts organizations should get our money?''

He added that Champion has invested $40 million in building its headquarters in Stamford, ''and we want the downtown area of the city to look attractive.'' This is one reasons for the company's generous contributions to the nearby Hartman Theater, Stamford Symphony, Stamford Museum and Nature Center, and State Opera.

The increased interest in the arts in such growing cities as Atlanta, Houston , Phoenix, and Stamford has given the people there a pride in their local arts activities. New galleries, theaters, and professional dance groups have removed the second-class stigma that often attends cultural life outside of the older metropolitan regions.

''The arts leaders in Stamford had been very New York-oriented, with the implicit assumption that whatever was done in Stamford was second-rate,'' Mr. Keller said. ''I think that has declined a lot, and there is more independence in the area. The corporate presence in the arts has made a real difference. It will be interesting to see if that changes the kind of art produced.''

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