Economic Development

Economic activity is a crucial part of a healthy community, whether it’s access to quality jobs for residents, business support, or a functioning, diverse range of retail options.

Developing Economic, Along with Physical, Health

Sue Joss and Jason Barbosa might seem to be unlikely economic development partners. She is the veteran CEO of a major nonprofit health care...

A Gem for New Jersey Neighborhood Revitalization

'A dollar and a dream,' was the phrase I read in a brochure about the starting point for revitalizing neighborhoods through the Neighborhood Revitalization...

Response to Darren Walker’s New Gospel of Wealth

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker recently circulated a thought-provoking piece declaring the foundation’s commitment to tackling the worldwide problem of inequality. In the piece, Walker...

Capital Catch-up

Community lenders try to address the capital crunch faced by small businesses of color.

“Money Must Serve, Not Rule!”

In November 2013, Morgan Stanley launched its Institute for Sustainable Investing and announced that within five years it was aiming to manage $10 billion...

Let’s Talk About Jobs—And Ownership

Community economic development is not just a matter of helping some households to get jobs and pay their bills. Done thoughtfully, it’s about . . .

The Next Boom for Worker Co-ops?

Baby boomers are the largest percentage of business owners, and they’re headed toward retirement. The worker cooperative movement wants to keep the jobs they’ve created from disappearing.

Impact Investing Resources

If you want to explore impact investing further, here are some places to start.

Can Community Wealth Building Redefine City Economic Development?

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It’s Not Actually About Ownership

Private Property and Public Power: Eminent Domain in Philadelphia, by Debbie Becher. Oxford University Press, 2014. 334pp. $30.50 (paper) Purchase here.
Front of Wanda's Hair Salon in DC's Shaw neighborhood

Equitable Development in Shaw

A recent New York Times article on the revitalization of Washington, DC’s Shaw neighborhood highlighted how real estate developers have rebranded the area to...
One pager begins with Q: Do Immigrants “Take Our Jobs”? A: No! This is a common fear, especially for people who are already struggling to get by. But it’s not true. Then it provides references to studies showing economic benefits to immigration. Image links to a pdf version.

Q: Do Immigrants “Take Our Jobs”?

A: No! This is a common fear, especially for people who are already struggling to get by. But it’s not true. Here are the facts:

The Governor’s Budget Non-strategy

It wouldn’t be surprising to see non-Californians still do a double-take when the title “Governor” is applied to former on-screen cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was...
Warehouse-style buildings.

For Cities, Industrial Land Matters

In a recent blog post, Tarry Hum, a professor of urban studies at Queens College, profiled the failure of the De Blasio administration to...
A panoramic photograph of Austin, Texas.

More Bang for the Buck?

Austin, with prodding from advocates, pushes its economic development policy to go beyond big deal chasing.

New Jersey Divests from Payday Lending

Advocates in New Jersey mobilize to make a state pension fund put its money where its state regulations are.

“Women- and Minority-Owned Businesses” Is a Meaningless Category

How many times have you seen the phrase “women- and minority-owned businesses” or seen an organization list a single...

Carrots, Sticks, and Economic Justice

Once upon a time, I saw the problem of providing responsible financial services as purely a policy problem. We...

Lifting the Fog on Section 3

When it's more appealing to circumvent the law requiring that jobs in public housing construction go to qualified residents than to follow it, something needs to change.

Countrywide CEO’s Cyberblunder

We hear it a lot these days, the Dante Alighieri quote that declares that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who...

Questioning the Core of Charlottesville’s Economy

What makes a local economy thrive, not just on the surface, but deep down? I found myself...

How Not To Do Economic Development

Camden is one of the most distressed cities in the United States, and if any city needs state help...
rusty door knock

Panacea or Problem? The Possibilities in Opportunity Zones

With Opportunity Zones, the potential is there for great benefit, but it is not yet clear where, how, and to whom any benefits will accrue. People who care about connecting residents and businesses in distressed communities with opportunities need to act now so they fulfill their promise.

Interview With Tom Szaky, Founder, Terracycle

We spoke with Tom Szaky, TerraCycle's founder and CEO, about social enterprise, locating in a distressed community, and what he as an employer would want out of workforce development programs.

Will Financial Crisis Lead to Hard Times for Nonprofits?

With congressional leaders reaching an agreement Thursday afternoon on the president’s proposal to pump $700 billion into the country’s financial system, it’s not yet...

In the South, Politics and Tourism Don’t Mix

The Civil War is big business in Virginia, which saw more than its share of big battles during the...

CRA Survives Its Toughest Challenge

There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result. –Winston Churchill The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has survived the most serious attack in...

Hubs Help Move the Local Food Movement to the Next Level

It’s not unusual to read a press release from a governor’s or mayor’s office celebrating a deal to bring a new company to a neighborhood or city. Typically we’d be talking about a new manufacturing or tech firm, and the press release would speak glowingly of the prospects for economic development. Which makes a bit […]

CRA Modernization:  A Critical Moment for Underserved Neighborhoods

The Community Reinvestment Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act hold great promise for the creation of a more financially inclusive nation, but both depend on critical "moments in time" in Congress that will determine whether they become good laws or are weakened beyond recognition

What’s Next in Arts & Economic Development

There’s something you should know about me:  I’m a professional amateur.  For the past seven years I’ve been co-writing and...

Local Leaders Just Gained a New Tool to Address Inequality

A new Brookings Institution analysis confirms what we are feeling: inequality continues to climb in cities, and large income...

Keeping Everyone Afloat: Is Universal Basic Income the Answer?

Advocates and organizers who deal with the needs of the poor often say it's not really a housing/food/training issue, it's an income issue. So what would happen if we just addressed income?
A yellow house on a corner.

The Power of Proximity: Making the Case for Living Where You Work

Twenty years later, it’s hard to overstate how wise I think that group of board members was in imposing its residency requirement on me. While initially skeptical, over the years I’ve learned some powerful lessons about the benefits of proximity.

Forging a Transformative Vision

Building economic power through community ownership is the antidote to the systemic failures of our current system.

“Let’s Refuel America”

According to a report in The New York Times Monday, auto sales are down by more than a million compared to 2007’s 16.2 million...

Show Up and Be Heard for Rural America

As I was reading recently about China's effort to herd around 250 million farmers and their families from the...

CDFIs “Rethink” Systems, But (Hopefully) Not Identity

Last week I attended the Opportunity Finance Network conference, the annual gathering of Community Development Financial Institutions and those who work with them. As usual,...
participatory budgeting fliers

Participatory Budgeting: Why Not Fix Everyone’s Sink?

Participatory budgeting offers a glimpse of how a more civically engaged society might work, but it’s also a distraction.

Sprawl vs. Unions

The three very different stories of the building trades in Atlanta, Denver, and Portland, Ore., show just how much urban development patterns affect workers.

Infrastructure Woes or Opportunities?

Anyone who has wasted hours each day commuting to work, sat in traffic for an hour as a freight train inched by, waited endlessly...

Maybe Money Really Can Grow On Trees

Guess what? The local food movement is actually good for your local economy! At least that seems to be...

Creating an Economic Development Policy Infrastructure

The last dozen years have witnessed the emergence of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) as leading developers of affordable housing in severely distressed urban and...

City Halls Help Plant Seeds for Community Co-ops

What do Austin, New York City and Denver have in common? All three cities voted to support the development of cooperatives for the first time this year. The amounts are modest, but the trend is clear—mayors and economic development leaders are beginning to add cooperatives and community wealth building to the economic development toolbox. In […]
A worker at Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, which recently secured new contracts for 3 million pounds of health care linens.

Green Jobs with Roots

For the founders of Cleveland's Evergreen Coops, putting a handful of people to work at minimum wage isn't worth it. They are aiming at nothing less than a ground-up economic transformation -- one owned by the very people it's intended to help.

Placemaking for, and by, Whom?

Place-Making in Legacy Cities: Opportunities and Good Practices, prepared by New Solution Group LLC in partnership with Center for Community Progress, December 2013.

Reconnecting Shared Visions to Investment Opportunities

Recently, over two sizable cups of locally-roasted coffee, a colleague and I mulled over a simple question: “How can...

Cut the Red Tape – Local Hire Needed

Last month, USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a new, year long model program to test innovative local hire policies....

A New Way to Finance Equitable Economic Development?

Big companies discovered the long-stagnant Immigrant Investor Program EB-5 after the 2008 financial crisis. Can community developers bend the program toward their goals too?
3 women posed at the sides of a sign.

Nun Funds: The Original Impact Investors

Rising out of a practice of shareholder activism that began in the 1970s, Women Religious made the leap from monitoring their investments on Wall Street to becoming pioneers in investing directly in the communities and social justice causes for which they cared.

Thinking Outside the Big Box

Urban centers need to come up with creative solutions to keep their local economies safe from the crushing force of big-box retailers.

Do New Yorkers Need an Emerald City?

The Christian Science Monitor reported a few days ago on the Bloomberg administration’s plans to redevelop the Willets Point industrial area of Queens (just...

Time to Bet on Prize-Linked Savings

During 15 years of working within a community development corporation to create and support socially and economically resilient communities, one of my perpetual frustrations...

Uber-noxious

At the PolicyLink Equity Summit the last week of October, Orson Aguilar of the Greenlining Institute was taking a...

Worker Co-ops: Hope in the Desert

“Political democracy requires economic democracy.” I spent Election Day in—of all places—Las Vegas, Nevada....
johns hopkins medical library

In Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Seeks to Be a Good Neighbor

The current HopkinsLocal effort, a three-year program launched in September 2015, is also clearly a response to the death of Freddie Gray and the events that followed.

Clearing a Path to Employment for Veterans

Veterans tend to have many job skills—but translating that into civilian employment is often harder than it should be.

Will The Creative Class Fly Back?

Perhaps this is a pointer to where America’s recovery will come from. Some of the less fashionable parts of the country may quietly get...

Casinos are Parasites

It is not news that communities desperate for jobs and economic development often make terrible long-term decisions, welcoming in...

Expanding the Scope of Community Development

More than four decades of suburban growth have moved demographic, political, and economic power from central cities toward their suburban counties. The change can...

Want a Stronger Economy? Focus More on Racial Inclusion

  As housing and community development practitioners, you need little convincing that dismantling racial barriers to economic opportunity—from policing practices to exclusionary zoning—is critical to building stronger, more cohesive communities. But what about the economic cost of these persistent racial inequities? Might segregated regions not just undermine the country’s moral fabric, but also hinder its […]

Reconnecting Jobs and Housing

National community development leaders discuss making the case for housing in a "jobs above all else" political environment.

The Slow Building Movement

Standing at the northern gateway of Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward and the confluence of the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers is...

A Bigger, Better Vision for the Left

What would full employment look like? Minority contractors, pastors, and faith leaders flew to the Capitol last week to...

Using Business as a Force For Good

B Corps are for-profit businesses that focus strongly on their social and environmental impact. The movement has grown to 1,800-plus worldwide and now cities, economic authorities, and activists are trying to attract more of these mission-driven and worker-friendly companies to help spur economic growth.
Row of trailer homes with mountains in the background.

Duty to Serve: A Boon for Shared Equity Homeownership

Shared equity homeownership programs just had a big win.

Out from Under the Table

An enterpreneurial training program in Detroit has an unexpected side benefit—legitimizing existing but unofficial businesses, and poising them for growth.

Defining the Creative Economy People

I was pleased to hear at a recent planning workshop that the definition of the creative economy has been expanded. As popularized by Richard...

Cape Cod’s Fish Pier Is Tourist Bait

Last year I wrote on Rooflines about a personal connection I had to the time when Cape Cod, that...

Tax Credits Play A Critical Role in Economic Development

In his recent speech to Congress, President Trump included this pledge: “Every American child should be able to grow...
running on hamster wheel

The Jobs-Housing Hamster Wheel

A deeper dive into the cause of high housing prices reveals that it is not the price of lumber, bricks, or labor that accounts for high or low housing prices—the controlling factor most often is the price of land.

Interview with Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Jay Williams was the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, from 2006 to 2011, at a time when Youngstown was attracting notoriety for making the unusual assertion that, rather than longing for its bygone glory days before the steel mills closed, it was going to embrace a vision of becoming a smaller, yet more vibrant city. (See Shelterforce’s “Small Is Beautiful, Again”, for more on this approach and how it affects low-income residents.) Williams is now assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, and administrator of the Economic Development Administration. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Commerce, Williams served as the executive director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, and he also served in the White House as deputy director for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In this position, he led efforts to engage mayors, city council members, and county officials around the country.

Shelterforce spoke with Williams at the conference of the National Alliance of Economic Development Associations last fall in San Antonio.

Parks For Revitalization

The image in this post, which photographer Bill Lim has made available to us through the wonder of the Creative Commons, is of the...

Outside Investment or Self-Reliance for Rural Success?

Recently I came across a couple articles that questioned the economic viability of rural areas in large parts of...

Strengthening the CRA

In 1995, the last time federal banking agencies revised the rules of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), they promised to conduct a follow-up review...

Advancing Economic Opportunity Through Diversity

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an important and powerful conversation about the importance of diversity and inclusion in achieving economic equity at the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) conference in Denver, Colorado. This is a topic that hits close to home for me. Before I joined JPMorgan Chase, I spent 10 years at […]

Connecting CDFIs and Impact Investors

It should be a natural fit; what’s in the way?

Using City Government to Build Community Wealth

While the two major party presidential candidates have many differences, both agree on the primacy of free enterprise.  Mitt Romney...

An Industrial Revolution Comes to Indianapolis

Abandoned factories have been an economic albatross for Midwestern cities since the 1990s, when American manufacturers moved overseas or...

Q: What’s the difference between community economic development and traditional economic development ?

A: A lot! In fact, they are so different that the Democracy Collaborative, which made the chart below, has coined the term “community wealth building” to set apart the truly community-oriented practitioners of economic development.
store closing

The Displacement Crisis of Immigrant-Owned Small Businesses

Growth of new business is a sign of a robust economy, but New York City’s true success hinges on ensuring that all residents have access to opportunity and community resources.

The Cooperative Solution

Cooperatives align closely with the goals and values of community developers and deserve more attention as an economic development strategy.

Crackdown Rocks Real-Estate Industry

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today that the Justice Department has indicted more than 400 defendants in 144 mortgage fraud cases. The indictments,...

Hey Supposed Economic Recovery, You Missed a Spot

The economic recovery is not reaching all people in all places. I suppose this should be obvious. But as a...

Filling Commercial Vacancies with Food Pantries

When I tell people that food pantries can be a new and innovative way to help lift up communities, they look at me as...

The Hidden Threat of Tax Cuts to Equitable Economic Development

Although the Trump administration’s recent budget proposal offers only a look at expenses, with no numbers on revenue, it...
mallach book cover

Can Cities Fix Their Polarization Problem? A Review of The Divided City

How different would cities look and how different would people’s lives be if those with the power to set policy and invest resources prioritized the most vulnerable residents and the neighborhoods they live in?

Vacant Storefronts: They’re Not Just For Ghost Towns Anymore

From the City of Millville way down in South Jersey to Morristown up in the northern state suburbs, downtowns across New Jersey are approaching...

“Learning In”: A Coalition Organizes for Equitable Redevelopment

Residents and small business owners are already seeing rents rise in Union Square, a diverse neighborhood in the largely working class city of Somerville...

What’s Next in Arts & Economic Development

There’s something you should know about me:  I’m a professional amateur.  For the past seven years I’ve been co-writing and...

The Benefits of Having Everyone at the Table

How might we better engage the families we work with and provide them access to larger opportunities? Last month, CFED held their bi-annual Assets Learning Conference. It featured a range of topics that touched on an array of asset-building issues and included networking opportunities, mobilized conversations with policymakers, and celebrations of the progress of the […]

Letting the Dollars Land

To realize the promise of community investment, the capacity of specific places to absorb available capital needs to grow.

R Street Apartments: Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Goes Green

Once marked by underinvestment and criminal activity, few neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. have undergone as significant a redevelopment over the last decade as the historic Logan Circle neighborhood.

News Flash: Rural Places and People are Becoming Irrelevant

The other day Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, got into the headlines with a speech in which he...

The Swiss Army Knife of Community Development

Across America—in inner city neighborhoods and rural towns alike—the level of economic and social distress is rising. Although these...

Q: Do economic development incentives support small businesses?

A. Not very much. Despite the claims of many states, when you look at the numbers, the vast majority of taxpayer dollars directed to economic development go to big corporations.
dilapidated Detroit building 2009

The Important Deadline Coming Up for All Governors

States have a deadline to submit their Opportunity Zones nominations. What factors will be weighed in the decision process, and what will federal designation mean to distressed neighborhoods?

Hitting Construction Hiring Goals

How do you ensure that the jobs a new development is supposed to bring to a community actually go to underrepresented populations?

Inclusive Growth, Identity, Poverty-Alleviation, and Freedom

I am writing from India, where last week a small but significant convening took place. Some 250 experts (business leaders, academics, and other thinkers)...

What’s Wrong With Milwaukee’s Hiring Practices? Almost Everything

When the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee announced back in 2011 that they would be conducting an $82...

A Response to ‘A New Gospel of Wealth,’ Part Two

In my last blog post, I responded to Ford Foundation president Darren Walker’s essay in which he outlines a new direction for the foundation ...