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.

A retail saleswoman at a counter.

When Work Creates Insecurity

Many of us think that any employment, even part time, provides a measure of security. This is not the case for the millions of...
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.
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?

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...

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.

New Lenses on Economic Development

Billions of taxpayer dollars are spent every year to stimulate economic development. Is it going where we think it’s going?

Time for Worker Cooperatives to Go Mainstream

Cities are at the crosswalk of talent and density, and they have a lot to lose by not thinking...

Jobs and More Jobs: Organizing’s Economic Impact

In the report, “Jobs and More Jobs: The Economic Impact of Community Organizing,” Gamaliel community organizers add up $13 billion worth of public and private programs that faith, community, and labor leaders worked to create or save through their advocacy efforts in 2012-13, employing nearly 460,000 people. Using commonly accepted economic formulas to measure the […]

Catalysts Turned Stalemates

All too often in cities around the country, a once-clear vision of a “catalytic development project” is easily blurred...

Underneath the Surface, a Community Fish Story

Sometimes I learn about the details of a community's development in the most random ways. My family gets together...
The cover of Democratizing Finance: Origins of the Community Development Financial Institution Movement by Clifford N. Rosenthal, Friesen Press

Tracing the Roots of CDFIs: A review of Democratizing Finance

This book is a major contribution to increasing knowledge and awareness of how far the community development finance movement has come in 30 years.

Questioning the Core of Charlottesville’s Economy

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

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...

Community Groups’ Role Vanishes Under New Federal Workforce Legislation

On July 22, 2014, after it passed by wide bipartisan margins earlier in the year, the Workforce Innovation and...
A trainee wearing a white hardhat fixes a light fixture in an apartment.

Making a Success of Local Hire

Local hire policies are among the strongest strategies for bringing good job opportunities to disadvantaged communities, but adding more provisions to specifically target those with the most barriers to employment can make local hiring practices even more effective.
Black-and-white photo of DACA information table.

Defending DACA Is a Moral and Economic Imperative

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants. Over the course of its five-year history,...

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,...
An OWN Rochester team member works on an and LED lighting installation.

What Anchor Institutions Can Do by Working Together

Anchor institutions are beginning to realize that they face similar challenges and, by joining forces, can accomplish goals that once seemed out of reach.

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...

“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...
A woman holds a sign outside of the Oakland City Council chambers that reads "Democratic Workplaces equal Democratic Oakland!"

In the World of Community Wealth-Building, Ownership Has Its Privileges

What local government can do to support new, more inclusive economic models.

“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...

Is Your Town a Parasite?

What would you do if someone told you your town, the place you'd grown up in and where you had...

Extending a Bank Branch to the Community

The systemic closing of bank branches in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods is followed by payday lenders, pawnshops, and check cashing services stepping in to fill the void.

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 […]

Focus on Scale Up, Not Start-up

To truly transform local neighborhoods, we must shift our attention to invest in enterprise scale, not start-ups, as a long-lasting solution for creating good jobs.

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.

Capital Catch-up

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

Measuring the Right Things: “Mobility from Poverty” Is More than Finances

How would you measure someone making progress toward escaping poverty? If you've been tuned in to the asset-building movement you might look at their accumulation of assets and preparation for a financial emergency. You might also want to look at cash flow. But can poverty-fighting be solely measured by money?

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.

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...

The Dollar Stores Take Their Place on the Block

When I lived in the big city, there was a Family Dollar among the various retail, cafe, bar and restaurant establishments on the nearby...

Making Sense of the New Economy: Rethinking Community Economic Development

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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....

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...
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.

Can The Silk City Forge Its Next Industrial Revolution?

New Jersey's Paterson is among the nation's oldest planned industrial cities, but it has fallen on hard times since the once-booming silk industry there declined in the latter half of the 20th century. Much of the industry in this city of 150,000 has since left, but now a geological attraction once envisioned by Alexander Hamilton as something that could be harnessed for industrial might, is fully protected, and could be channeled, this time, for its community-building potential.

Eds and Meds and the Three-Legged Stool of Economic Development

My first reactions to Richard Florida's recent attempt to tip the sacred cow of “eds and meds” (universities and hospitals)...
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.

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...

We Should Be Working Less

Changing our assumptions about what constitutes "normal" full time work could help address all sorts of social problems, from unemployment to civic disengagement.

Long Time Coming

After 40 years of abuse and neglect, will the residents of D.C.'s once-vibrant Shaw neighborhood succeed in redefining the value of people and place?

Van Jones: The Green House, Redux

The Spring 2009 issue of Shelterforce ran a brief about Van Jones’ being named White House special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation...

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.

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...

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...

Building Bridges, Building Muscle, Building Momentum

Two cities show how community-based organizations and labor can overcome their historical divide to work together.

Less Pasture, More Concrete in Rural Future?

“From concrete to pasture.” That's how one might characterize my relocation a couple years ago from Boston to Central Virginia. Boston is a place where...

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 […]

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...

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...

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.

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...
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.
remix graffiti

Can We Ditch Tax Incentives and Support True Economic Development?

Because recent advocacy has succeeded in achieving a change in government accounting standards that led many cities and states to disclose the total costs of the tax abatements they provided last year for the very first time, we now are gaining a better sense of just how much these abatements take away from education and other public services.

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?

A Victory for Local Control re: Fracking

Localities in New York State appear to have won the right to ban fracking, thanks to a decision by the...

Put Your Spending Where Your Goals Are

Local procurement policies take money already being spent and direct it to local businesses to get more economic development benefit for the buck.

Making Community Benefits Agreements Count

CBAs can be extremely difficult to implement and enforce, which is why a detailed agreement in the early stages of the community-developer relationship is so important.
cleveland streetscape

Remember Slavic Village? It’s Back

A Cleveland neighborhood made famous as an epicenter of the foreclosure crisis works its way back to stability. Here’s how.
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.

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...

How One City Is Keeping Jobs Local Using Co-ops

In 1971, the owners of The Cheese Board turned their Berkeley, California, mom-and-pop shop into a co-op, where they...

Can Community Wealth Building Redefine City Economic Development?

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You’re Gonna Change the Economy? How, Exactly?

If people were surprised at how skeptical voters in the recent West Virginia Democratic primary were of Barack Obama’s casting himself as the candidate...
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...

Building the Cars of the Future . . . in Detroit

How the nonprofit Focus: HOPE is helping to bring manufacturing jobs back to Detroit, and the Detroiters who need them.

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...
A rendering of what Port Covington would look like once the decades-long project is completed.

Who Will Benefit from Port Covington?

Advocates, city leaders, and Under Armour's real estate arm negotiate a $660 million tax deal and a vision for economic development in Baltimore.

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

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...

How Much Outside Help Do Worker Co-ops Need to Get to Scale?

Though they end up as owners and decision-makers, workers in low-income communities often don't start off doing all the work...
person holding Amazon delivery box

The Amazon Opportunity to Revitalize Urban Communities

It's not too late for cities competing to be the next home to Amazon to raise the issue of employer-assisted workforce housing.

Sustainable Revitalization For America’s Smaller Cities

Andre Leroux, executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, believes that New England’s smaller cities hold the potential to absorb much development that...

Control of Farmland, City Style

I have thought a lot lately about the issue of land ownership for farmers, and the barriers they face to buying land so they can plan for growing their business and serving more food consumers. This issue really matters on the edges of metropolitan areas, where farmers can find lucrative markets for their products and […]

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 ...

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...

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 […]

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?

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...

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)...

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,...

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...

The Cooperative Solution

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

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...

The Slow Building Movement

Standing at the northern gateway of Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward and the confluence of the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers is...
old and new buildings in Harlem

New York City Needs to Stop Negotiating Rezonings From an Uneven Playing Field

What is the underlying dynamic that leads so many council members in low-income communities of color to approve neighborhood rezonings, despite community opposition and the likelihood of increased displacement pressure on existing residents?

Forget Red and Blue States: Go Green for Better Jobs, Health, and Environment

How do you win an election in any red Southern state? If you are running as a senator, the conventional wisdom is you condemn government as an enemy of working families.

“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...

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 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 […]

Keeping the Jobs in House

Humboldt Construction Company, a subsidiary of a Chicago CDC, has been providing local employment for over 30 years. But it hasn't been easy.

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...
A photo of the Rush University Medical Center.

Connecting Companies to Business

A Chicago organization is bringing together local businesses and large institutions to promote economic growth.

Easing into Investment?

Joe Kriesberg of Mass. Assoc. of CDCs recently took a trip to Cuba with a group of community development colleagues....

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...

A Green Job Renaissance?

Even decades after de-industrialization and outsourcing decimated the once-solid, well-paid, empowered blue collar union workforce of the Midwest, jobs are still being lost by...

Uber-noxious

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

The Raw Extraction Economy

By now most people in urban America who pay attention to the news have heard of fracking, the practice of...
A panel discussion about Opportunity Zones in Chicago.

Who Will Benefit From Opportunity Zones? It’s Still Unclear

Who will benefit most from these investments remains the biggest question.