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.

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...

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 […]

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.

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...
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.

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...

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...

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?

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.

Walt Weighs In On The Economy

So this is weird: December 5 is Walt Disney’s birthday and I get these two separate Disney things in the e-mail from different people...

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...

Reconnecting Jobs and Housing

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

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...

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...

Tracking Job Creation in the Nonprofit Sector

Rick Cohen, a long-time Shelterforce contributor and editor of The Nonprofit Quarterly‘s “Cohen Report” wrote last week on the importance of nonprofits tracking their...

Are You Subsidizing Big Business?

Massive corporations, not start-ups or local job creators, get the lion's share of state and local development incentives.

Local Hire: Popular and Controversial

In March, USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx began moving toward fully implementing “Local Hire,” a new, year long model program...

Alcohol: Scourge of the Neighborhood or Revitalization Tool?

Community developers have had, and perhaps still have, a mixed relationship with businesses that serve alcohol.On the one hand,...

Farming With Benefits

One of the many striking commercials that aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl was a celebration of the American farmer, although...

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.
participatory budgeting fliers

Participatory Budgeting: Why Not Fix Everyone’s Sink?

Just like a focus group or any mechanism intended to give us a voice, participatory budgeting can offer a glimpse of how a more civically engaged society might work. But it’s also a distraction from the actual mechanisms of power, and can reinforce or even worsen existing inequalities.

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.

Why CDFIs Should Go To College

              During three decades of working to close the financial gaps that confront a disproportionate number of low-income, minority...

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...

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...

Tracking the Recession and the Recovery

The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings announced today the launch of its MetroMonitor, a tool that measures the health of 100 of America’s largest...
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.

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 […]
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.
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.

How Much Money Is Your City or State Losing to “Economic Development?”

Have you ever wondered how much money your city or state is actually losing when it gives a 20-year tax break to a developer in exchange for a handful of jobs? You might soon be able to find out. As Shawn Escoffery of the Surdna Foundation and Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First explain in […]
The spires and statue atop an old bank building.

Would Trump’s CRA Reform Really “Do No Harm?”

NCRC examined every single Community Reinvestment Act evaluation for mid-size banks conducted during 2016.
A sticker on a window promotes Bernal Bucks, a business initiative in San Francisco.

Why Your Community Should Kick the Subsidy Habit

Corporate incentives won't help communities thrive, even distressed ones. But nurturing local businesses will save municipalities money and promote the growth of income, wealth, and jobs.

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.

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

The following op-ed is an expanded version of “Green States Better for Jobs,” that appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal on October 20, 2014. 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 […]

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 […]

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.

Let’s Take Advantage of The Bad Times

With city budgets shrinking rapidly, municipal governments are desperate to collect property tax revenue wherever they can find it. So they are moving to...

The Slow Building Movement

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

Is 2012 the Year of the Business Co-op?

Last October in New York City, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon officially designated 2012 as the “International Year...

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.

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,...

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.

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...

Worker Co-ops: Hope in the Desert

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

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.

Evergreen Cooperatives Sows Sustainable Jobs with New Greenhouse

If my food shopping habits can in any way predict the success of the latest Evergreen Cooperatives initiative than they're in luck. Every year I...

Revitalize Our Building Stock, Revitalize the Economy

For the same reason that many admire the Flatiron building in New York City, I had a special affinity...
Women looking at museum exhibit

The Cavalry Is Us: Civil Rights and Cooperative Action

In our nation’s most vulnerable places, every vulnerable person and those more fortunate who care about their well being, are best served when we come together to help ourselves.

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...

Fighting Wage Theft

Monday brought the announcement of a record 70,000-plus jobs lost worldwide, from drug companies to automakers and everything in between. Meanwhile each year millions of...

How the New Market Tax Credit Program Could Actually Benefit Communities

The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program was created in 2000, with a goal of creating “jobs and material improvement...

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....

“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...

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.

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)...

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 […]

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...

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.
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...

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.

Forging a Transformative Vision

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

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.

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...

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.

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.

Putting the Impact in Impact Investing

Impact investing is a popular idea that promises to channel the power of market capitalism into serving the common...
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?

Keeping the Jobs in House

Humboldt Construction Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of a Chicago CDC, has been providing local employment and high-quality work for over 30 years.

Tuscany, Barcelona, Croatia… the Rust Belt?

This weekend, the New York Times suggested Pittsburgh as a destination (for at least 36 hours) alongside these locales, and as of my writing...

With Rising Property Taxes, Should Non-Profits Now Pay Their “Fair Share”?

It’s tight here in New Jersey. And it’s because it’s crowded. With 8.7 million people, we are 11th in the country in population, but...

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...

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...

Questioning the Core of Charlottesville’s Economy

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

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...

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?

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...

Easing into Investment?

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

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 […]

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...

More Than Marching: Creating Good Jobs That Protect Our Water And Air

Trump and his cronies are backtracking on ensuring a clean energy economy that provides green jobs to make our communities sustainable.

Unlocking Community Development: The Anchor Key

Anchor institutions—a term used to describe public and nonprofit hospitals and universities—are today widely recognized for their role in community...
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.

Building Bridges, Building Muscle, Building Momentum

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

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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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?

Can We Bend the Sharing Economy Toward Equity?

We’ve all heard the stories. Homeless Homejoy cleaners. Uber drivers on food stamps. Grad students Airbnb-ing their extra rooms...
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?

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...

“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...

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.

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...

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)...
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.

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?
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,...