Government agencies in more than one state are taking advantage of affordable labor and material costs to initiate work on their public buildings. If you’ve driven by the Minnesota State Capitol recently, as I do every day, you see the scaffolding covering our iconic Cass Gilbert dome. It is interesting to see that Texas is doing the same, something we’ve witnessed while here in Austin for the National Preservation Conference.
The scaffolding may be marring the famous view of this city landmark, but it brings a smile to my face regardless. Why? Because that scaffolding means that our work to save historic places created jobs. Dozens of jobs from the architect to the general contractor, the mason to the truck driver delivering building materials to the site. Through our preservation projects, more people are being put back to work in the construction industry and this demonstrates our value in not only that constituency, but also for those in government who have approved the spending.
Historic preservation creates more jobs than new construction. This is a little-known fact, but one that makes sense when you consider that preservation is a labor-intensive industry. It takes people to repair existing material rather than replacing it outright with new material. In Minnesota, it’s estimated that preservation will create 5.7 more jobs than manufacturing, 4 more than road construction, and 2 more than new construction for every $1 million in output. Our new state historic tax credit could create between 1,500 and 3,000 new jobs alone if we follow the success of other states. This is powerful when you consider that we are putting to work the population of a town the size of Granite Falls; we are helping to sustain these peoples’ livelihoods and the money they spend in their communities.
Later today, I have the honor of presenting on a panel entitled, “Why Would I Give Your Money? Preservation = JOBS!” here at the National Preservation Conference. My presentation will focus on the work that we did with the Building Jobs Coalition to show that the state historic preservation tax credit would create jobs. I will talk about how we proved the case through research from other states, examples from Minnesota, and a clear statement of need. It is exciting to present our work as a best practice for those around the country. More exciting is to see that scaffolding around our beautiful Capitol dome and to know that the work of preservationists sustains others who then give back to their own communities. We are helping to put Minnesota back to work thanks to the Minnesota Legislature and our citizens.