Overview of the Economy


What is the creative economy? An $878 billion domestic economic ecosystem of for-profit and nonprofit creative industries, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, vendors, policymakers, and funders that produce and distribute creativity- and arts-based goods and services. A dynamic creative economy generates jobs and revenue, bolsters community resources, and fosters cultural engagement.

Mystic, CT is often listed as a top-rated destination in national publications. Most recently, it was rated the 4th summer destination spot in the country by USA Today (10 best summer travel destinations in the US for 2023).

While Connecticut’s manufacturing sector has grown since the last recession ended in late 2009, the most gains have come in tourism, which in turn supports restaurants, hotels and the hospitality sector in general. A vibrant creative economy is essential to quality of life, tourism, economic development, health and wellness, and community vitality in the region. Southeastern Connecticut houses most of the state’s top tourism attractions, all of which were significantly impacted by the pandemic.

According to analysis from Johns Hopkins University, the Arts, Culture and Recreation sector experienced job losses at three times the rate of the next-most-impacted sector from January to August 2020 (News-

The Connecticut Small Business Boost Fund sports a 94 percent success rate in helping organizations, businesses and artists get grants. The program provides monthly drop-in grant clinics, workshops, consulting, online resources, peer-to-peer resource sharing, and technical support to improve the region’s arts and cultural sector ability to capitalize on local, state, New England and federal grant opportunities.

THRIVE! was a conference for all partners/members of the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition (SCCC) to gather, share, learn and celebrate the arts community. In 2022 the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center and members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation helped SCCC co-create the biennial event centered on a theme of Healing. Through partnership and collabo-ration, the conference highlighted stories and issues from the arts and cultural community, and catalyzed challenging conversations around the topics of pandemics, racial and social justice, and equity.

Release-Sept-Jobs-Report_10-21-20.Pdf (Jhu.Edu)). The state lost nearly 88,000 service and hospitality related jobs between February 2020 and April 2020, due to the rapid closure of restaurants and major tourism attractions as a result of the pandemic and government-mandated social distancing requirements and travel restrictions, but gained roughly 55,000 of those jobs back by December 2020 as restrictions were gradually removed (Figure 19). These figures do not include jobs lost at the two casinos in Connecticut as these jobs are included under “Government” employment.

Arts and cultural organizations are further impacted by historically unreliable state funding sources, as consistent funding is critical to long range planning for these organizations, especially when the economy is volatile or depressed. Smaller organizations often cannot take advantage of funding opportunities because they lack the resources to do so and would require multi-year funding to confidently hire professional staff to help.

The Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition (SCCC) has had a tremendous positive impact on individuals and entities that participate in arts, culture, history or creative pursuits trying to recover from this latest shock. The SCCC is one of eight Designated Regional Service Organizations (DRSOs) for the CT Office of the Arts (COA). This statewide network of service providers plays a key role that is mutually beneficial to the state’s citizens and creative economy, the regional arts and cultural infrastructure, and COA’s goals, programs and services.

    SECT’s two tribal casinos closed temporarily due to the pandemic. According to spokespeople from each tribe, employment at Mohegan Sun dropped from 6,875 to 4,935 between July 2019 and July 2021, and at Foxwoods from about 5,400 to 2,900. In an effort to boost state revenues, expand the customer base of the two casinos, and help recover casino jobs in the state’s struggling southeastern corner, a bill was passed in May 2021 to legalize sports betting and online casino games and lottery sales in Connecticut. Passage of Public Act No. 21-23, An Act Concerning the Authorization, Licensing and Regulation of Online Casino Gaming, Retail and Online Sports Wagering, Fantasy Contests, Keno and Online Sale of Lottery Tickets, came after a relatively brief debate, an anticlimactic ending to a multi-year push to expand the customer base of two tribal casinos squeezed by competition in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts and a temporary closure forced by Covid-19 (An Act Concerning the Authorization, Licensing and Regulation of Online Casino Gaming, Retail and Online Sports Wagering, Fantasy Contests, Keno and Online Sale of Lottery Tickets).

    Other key projects and updates affecting tourism and the creative economy in the region are highlighted in Table 7.

    Table 7. Notable Regional Projects/Events in Tourism and the Creative Economy

    Foxwoods and its owner, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, have begun to build the $300 million Great Wolf Lodge development at Mashantucket. The development encompasses 13 acres of reservation land and will feature a 91,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 61,000 sf family entertainment center, family restaurants, and a 550-room hotel. Scheduled to open in 2025, the new resort is projected to attract 600,000 visitors a year from within a 6½-hour drive (Mashantucket Pequot, Foxwoods Leaders Break Ground on $300 Million Great Wolf Lodge – NBC Connecticut).

    The Thames River Heritage Park Water Taxi has regained pre-pandemic levels for tours.

    The Garde Arts Center in New London received the 2022 Outstanding Historic Theatre Award from the League of Historic American Theatres in recognition of significant community impact (services and breadth of populations served), quality of programs and services, and quality of the restoration or rehabilitation of its historic structure (Garde Arts Center | Performance Theater in New London, Connecticut).

    Mystic Seaport Museum received in January 2022 three grants from Connecticut Humanities, the statewide, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, totaling $519,999 to augment museum operations (1-14-2022.pdf (mysticseaport.org)). Additionally, the museum received funding from Ørsted and Eversource Energy to conduct “research on how impacts of offshore wind on marine mammals can be minimized. The research will provide valuable data to scientists studying the impacts of the climate crisis, as well as educate the public on the solutions to these challenges” (Ørsted and Eversource Partner with Mystic Aquarium on Comprehensive Study of Offshore Wind and Marine Life – Mystic Aquarium). It also received $650,000 in January 2023 to establish the Blue Economy Workforce Development Initiative: Creating a Pathway for Underserved Youth. The Blue Economy Initiative is a partnership between Mystic Aquarium and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and key players include the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut’s Innovation Center in New London and 10 youth-serving organizations throughout Connecticut (Mystic Aquarium Celebrates Federal Funding for Blue Economy Workforce Development Initiative – Mystic Aquarium).