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Feds Launch New "Strong Cities" Initiative to Spark Economic Growth in Local Communities

The Obama Administration has launched a new pilot program, called "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" (or SC2), to spark economic growth in local communities with taxpayer dollars used more "wisely and efficiently."

To jumpstart the initiative, several federal agencies will work with the mayors of six pilot cities: Chester, PA.; Cleveland, OH;; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA.; Memphis, TN.; and New Orleans, LA. These government "Community Solutions Teams" will assist cities with efforts such as building on local assets, strengthening regional economies, developing transportation infrastructure, improving job-training programs, and supporting community revitalization. In addition to working local governments, the community teams will partner with local private sector and other institutions to find solutions.

SC2 was created after the Obama Administration received two years of feedback from leaders nationwide who described the kind of partnership needed for economic growth. Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett hailed SC2 as a federal initiative which "respects the wisdom of local leadership, and helps mayors and other local officials utilize federal resources more effectively.

In sum, the pilot program will focus on three key goals:

  • improving the way federal government does business (e..g, cutting through red tape);

  • providing local communities with "ground up," not "top down" solutions; and

  • partnering for growth by developing critical partnerships with key local and regional stakeholders including governments as well as "new partnerships with the business community" ( nonprofits, anchor institutions, faith-based institutions, and other public, private and philanthropic leaders).

There are three other components of SC2 besides its Community Solutions Teams. For example, the SC2 Fellowship Program places career professionals in local government positions for multi-year assignments to help give cities "additional capacity." It will be funded primarily by philanthropic partners like the Rockefeller Foundation.

Through the SC2 Economic Planning Challenge, communities nationwide will be eligible to compete for comprehensive economic planning assistance through a grant competition spurring innovative projects. Each city will receive about $1 million in grants to fund multi-disciplinary teams of experts charged with developing comprehensive economic and land use proposals for their communities.

The fourth SC2 project is the National Resource Network (NRN) will gather together public and private resources to give more communities access to a one-stop portal of national consulting experts. The Feds say NRN also will "foster peer-to-peer learning to strengthen the network of urban practitioners and thinkers."


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