The Omaha Symphony produces more than music by Mozart, Fleetwood Mac and Gershwin.
The symphony generated an estimated $45 million economic impact in Douglas County over the past five years, according to a new report by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist.
Salaries of symphony employees, and hotel stays and restaurant meals of audience members are part of the economic impact.
James Johnson, symphony president and CEO, said the symphony contracted for the study to document the role it plays in the local economy.
“We know we (make) a great contribution to the cultural life of the community,” he said. “But we want to be able to show our supporters what a difference we make to the economic life of Omaha and the region.”
The study was conducted by economist Eric Thompson, director of the UNL Bureau of Business Research, and Shannon McClure, a graduate research assistant. It covered the five-year period that ended June 30, 2012.
The findings are based in part on an analysis of the symphony's annual budget, an email survey of ticket buyers and factors such as where ticket buyers live.
The researchers estimated, for example, that nearly one-third of ticket buyers last year lived outside Douglas County.
Thompson said the symphony's economic impact flows from those visitors spending money at restaurants, hotels, gas stations and stores. Douglas County residents, in turn, choose to attend symphony events rather than travel elsewhere for performances.
Economic activity is also generated by symphony employees spending their paychecks in the county, and by the symphony's spending on supplies, equipment and services.
Thompson said communities are increasingly aware of the economic impact of arts and music groups. Thompson, for example, conducted a study on the nonprofit Omaha Performing Arts organization. That study, whose findings were released in 2012, found that Omaha Performing Arts generated an economic impact of $128.5 million during the previous five years.
Thompson, who has studied trends in cultural economics, said the Omaha Performing Arts study and the symphony one didn't tally the value of those who are drawn to live and work in Omaha partly because of its art and music offerings.
But he cited other studies, including some he has conducted, that have found that a city's vibrant arts community attracts and keeps entrepreneurs, top-level managers and other professionals.
Karla Ewert, spokeswoman for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said prospective employers are increasingly interested in Omaha's cultural and entertainment offerings, including the symphony.
“A strong arts community makes us a much more attractive place to do business and live,'' she said.
The symphony season that just ended was not included in Thompson's recent study, but it was strong, Johnson said. Paid attendance was 54,023, up 12 percent from the season before. Gross ticket revenue surpassed $1.6 million, up 6 percent.
Johnson said the 2012-13 season was propelled by a strong lineup of performances that included widely known names such as singer Olivia Newton-John and violinist Joshua Bell, as well as events that had no stars, such as an Irving Berlin tribute.