States and localities spend $50 billion to $80 billion on tax breaks and incentives each year in the name of economic development. Historically, these traditional economic development policies and programs have not benefited all populations, and have in many cases particularly shortchanged people of color, immigrants, and low-income communities.
“Cities are recognizing that creating equitable and sustainable economic prosperity for all should be the goal of their activities across the board,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink president and CEO. This is the driving force behind the PolicyLink All-In Cities initiative and a new fellowship program being launched today targeted specifically at economic development practitioners.
To help cities orient their economic development practices toward advancing equitable growth, the National League of Cities (NLC), PolicyLink, and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) are convening today in Portland, Oregon to launch the first-ever Equitable Economic Development Fellowship. Six cities were chosen to participate in the inaugural year of the fellowship: Boston, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.
The Equitable Economic Development Fellowship is a two-year, $1 million effort to help equity, transparency, sustainability and community engagement become driving forces in local economic development efforts. During the fellowship, which is generously funded by the Surdna Foundation and the Open Society Foundation, economic development leaders will convene for leadership development, technical assistance, and peer learning. Another class of six cities will be invited to participate in the second year of the program in 2017.
While in Portland, each city team will identify a particular equity challenge in economic development to focus on during the course of the fellowship. The cities will receive support and technical assistance from NLC, PolicyLink and ULI, as well as their peer cities, to address the specific diversity and inclusion challenges. "We are excited to be working with economic development leaders who are eager to integrate an equity approach into their efforts to grow strong local economies," added Blackwell.