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Corporate flight brings new arts demand to newer communities

By Daniel GrantSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / November 7, 1983



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.

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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?''

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.