Equitable Growth Initiatives

We work with partners across the country to advance policy ideas and solutions to achieve employment equity, close the racial wealth gap, and foster equitable economic growth. 

Employment Equity in Southern States 

Employment equity — when everyone who wants to work has a good job that pays family-supporting wages — is critical to building a strong Southern economy. Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and North Carolina are home to a fifth of the country’s Black population, yet have some of the highest rates of Black unemployment. PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) are working with the Partnership for Southern Equity, the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Coalition, the Alabama Asset-Building Coalition, Rural Forward, and the Power Coalition to assess the potential economic benefits of full employment for all in each state and put forth policy solutions for employment equity. See our reports for GeorgiaAlabama, and Mississippi.

Economic Inclusion in Southern Cities 

Southern cities face unique obstacles to economic inclusion including an entrenched legacy of racism and state laws that preempt them from implementing policies such as local hiring. To help city leaders develop strategies that work, PolicyLink and the Annie E. Casey Foundation support a learning community of southern cities dedicated to advancing economic equity for low-income communities and communities of color. Comprised of city officials and staff, local philanthropy, and business and community partners from Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, and Richmond, the group meets regularly to share best practices on anchor institution engagement, growing minority-owned businesses, and targeted hiring. Learn more.

Advancing Equitable Development

Every year, local and state governments spend billions on tax breaks and other subsidies in the name of economic development, but these investments often fail to deliver good jobs, business opportunities, and other necessities such as affordable housing to low-income communities and communities of color. PolicyLink works to ensure that public investments foster equitable, accountable development. PolicyLink Legal provides direct legal representation to community coalitions negotiating community benefits agreements on large, publicly-subsidized development projects, and legal and technical assistance to government officials and other equity advocates seeking to institute equitable development policies such as local hiring and inclusive contracting.

Inclusive Procurement in Green Infrastructure

Recognizing a “just transition” to a clean energy economy is critical to inclusive prosperity, we are partnering with the Emerald Cities Collaborative to strengthen equitable contracting and procurement in the green infrastructure sector. Our review of the 50-year bipartisan policy history for creating inclusive business opportunities for firms of color, woman-owned firms and disadvantaged businesses found many unrealized goals representing tens of billions of dollars of lost economic opportunity. See our report Inclusive Procurement and Contracting. We are now working to advance practice and policy change to prepare a next generation of firms that can deliver on green infrastructure.

Equitable Economic Development Fellowship

To build an equitable economy, equity needs to be thoroughly baked in to economic development policies, strategies, and investments at the onset. This means dramatically shifting the practice of economic development from costly “deals” toward a more comprehensive approach that strengthens their economies through greater participation, opportunity, and ownership for people and communities being left behind. Through the Equitable Economic Development Fellowship, the National League of Cities, PolicyLink, and the Urban Land Institute are helping cities orient their economic development practices toward equitable growth. Current fellowship cities include Austin, Baltimore, Louisville, Nashville, Phoenix and Sacramento. The 2016-17 fellowship cities were Boston, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. Learn more.

Building Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems 

For economic growth to be inclusive, people of color need to not only participate in the economy, but be the innovators and entrepreneurs that are driving growth and prosperity. Since 2009, we have been helping the New Economy Initiative, a $130 million, 10-year collaboration of 10 local and national foundations, build an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem of supports for business owners who are women and people of color. This support is paying off: since 2007, the funder collaborative has helped launch more than 1,600 new companies (39 percent of them owned by people of color), and creating more than 17,000 jobs. 

Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones have the potential to attract much needed investment in low-income communities, positively impacting housing costs, job creation, and residential and commercial development. To ensure benefits for both residents and investors, equity must be a core element in its implementation. Enacted in the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones have been designated to attract between $2-$6 trillion of private capital into low-income areas. This new designation incentivizes multiple stakeholders -- individuals, corporations, and financial institutions -- to defer capital gains taxes by investing in state-designated distressed areas.  Governments and foundations can also invest in these areas, enabling them the opportunity to ensure private investments be poured into small businesses and local residential projects that create good jobs, reduce poverty, and help low-income residents.  

Designing Regional Equitable Growth Strategies 

In the context of our ongoing shift to an economy driven by technology and innovation, as productivity gains no longer guarantee job growth, what are the best strategies to ensure economic inclusion, particularly of the emerging people-of-color majority? How can advanced industries be leveraged support the growth of high quality jobs in other, more accessible sectors? To answer these questions and inform policy solutions that can increase economic security and build stable pathways to the middle class, PolicyLink and PERE are analyzing the characteristics of America’s economically insecure population and a typology of the 150 largest U.S. regions by changes in the manufacturing and service sectors. 

Bay Area Young Men of Color Employment Partnership

The Bay Area Young Men of Color Employment Partnership (BAYEP) is a regional initiative led by the Bay Area Council, LeadersUp, PolicyLink, United Way Bay Area, and the Urban Strategies Council. BAYEP collaborates with employers, community-based organizations, young adults, policymakers, and advocates across the Bay Area to build career pathways for boys and men of color who represent one of the fastest growing populations in California yet face the highest unemployment rates. BAYEP is implementing a workforce pilot to place young men of color in middle-wage jobs and developing a local and state policy agenda for release in 2018. Learn more at www.bayep.org.