Doing Economic Development Differently: The Design Principles

Ines Polonius, CEO, Communities Unlimited, Inc. (AR, MS, TN, TX, OK, LA and AL)

Download Presentation

Carolina Textile District

Molly Hemstreet, Founder and General Manager, Opportunity Threads (Western North Carolina)

A robust textile manufacturing industry once supported generations of artisans and their communities in western North Carolina. But the last few decades have seen mills close, jobs leave and lives change due to outsourcing and industry changes. Now, a unique collaboration among a worker-owned firm, an innovation center, a county economic development organization and local mills is meeting growing demand for domestic, environmentally friendly textile production, bringing new hope to the region they call home.

Download Presentation


Peter Hille, President, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (Appalachian KY)

Appalachian Kentucky, where coal has been king, and persistent poverty and unemployment mark the landscape, is a region in need of new economic engines. Momentum is now growing in clean-energy market opportunities centered on energy efficiency and renewable sources. Thanks to the leadership and coordination by a long-standing, multi-strategy regional organization, the area’s clean energy sector is growing, and in a way that creates economic opportunities for low-income employees and contractors, retrofits homes and shops, reduces energy consumption and saves costs for local residents and businesses — building wealth across the region.

Download Presentation

Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives

Ted Howard, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Democracy Collaborative

Launched in 2008 by a working group of Cleveland-based anchor institutions — the Cleveland Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the municipal government — the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative is creating green, living wage jobs in six low-income neighborhoods in the Greater University Circle area. Rather than offering public subsidies to induce corporations to bring what too often are low-wage jobs into the city, the Evergreen strategy is catalyzing new businesses owned by their employees; rather than concentrate on workforce training for job opportunities unavailable to low-skill and low-income workers, the Evergreen Initiative first creates the jobs, and then recruits and trains local residents to take them.

Download Presentation

Springing Up: The Wellspring Collaborative

Emily Kawano, Co-Director, Wellspring Cooperative Corporation (Springfield, Massachusetts)

Modelled after the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Wellspring’s goal is to use anchor institution purchases to create a network of worker-owned businesses that are located in the inner city, provide job training for unemployed and underemployed residents, and generate entry-level jobs that pay a living wage with benefits. Emily will focus on their first venture: the Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative — a full-service upholstery factory that provides timely, quality workmanship for budget-conscious commercial and institutional customers.

Features: Manufacturing | Worker Ownership | Anchor Institutions | Urban | Community Wealth

Download Presentation

Food Systems, Hubs and the Kitchen Sink: ACEnet & Rural Action

Leslie Schaller, Director of Programs, Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (Ohio)
Tom Redfern, Sustainable Action Coordinator, Rural Action

In Appalachian Ohio, for more than two decades, ACEnet and Rural Action have worked with local, regional and statewide partners to build local food systems in a 32-county region of southeast Ohio. Their shared goals include agriculture that’s good for the community, the economy, healthy people and the environment — and the growth of locally owned businesses, especially those operated by lower-income residents, along with local jobs. Through a range of innovation, technical assistance, entrepreneurship supports, creative finance, branding, market and specialty product development, a sophisticated and enduring value chain has emerged — a national model for how stakeholders in a local food system can work and invest together to build the local and regional economy.

Features: Food Systems/Hubs | Small business assistance | CDFI | 32-County region

Download Presentation

How One Rural Road Is Driving Tourism Development: Northern Initiatives

Chris Rector, Regional Strategies Director, Northern Initiatives (Upper Peninsula, Michigan)

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) is a region rich in natural, cultural and tourism assets, but until recently these assets were disconnected from the outside world and one another, and many small tourism-related businesses were struggling to stay afloat. Building on the creative vision and strategic commitment of this CDFI, eastern UP stakeholders came together to develop and market the region collectively as a must-see tourist destination. New visitors from far and near now find that when they travel along Superior’s shoreline and through the forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it will lead them to a world-class mix of landscapes, heritage, recreation, local food and lively culture. This dynamic tourism mashup is raising local bottom lines – and the region’s prospects.

Features: Tourism/Recreation | Native Culture | Branding | CDFI | Small business assistance

Download Presentation

From Farm to Fuel: Communities Unlimited

Tami Hornbeck, Managing Director, Community Initiatives, Communities Unlimited (East Arkansas)

Like many small towns, DeWitt, Arkansas, has grappled with a changing economy and a poverty rate that hovers at nearly 25%. But now a renewed (and renewable) energy infuses this Delta town, developed through a collaboration of more than 20 organizations, entrepreneurs, investors, public entities, community leaders and colleges. Farm to Fuel is a self-sustaining model with two components centered on renewable energy and energy independence: first, planting camelina, a winter oilseed energy crop that can be processed into biofuel and animal feed; and second, collecting and recycling waste vegetable oil from local restaurants, stores, schools, hospitals and residents. Both are being processed locally into biofuel by the town of DeWitt, which now has a consistent source of fuel to power city, county, and farm vehicles — even as the effort is generating additional income in the region through new business ventures.

Features: Food Systems/Hubs | Small business assistance | CDFI | 32-County Region

Download Presentation

Generating a Regenerative Community: Thunder Valley CDC

Sharice Davids, Deputy Director, Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (Pine Ridge Reservation)

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is the site of an emerging “Regenerative Community” being built by Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation. Rooted in the Lakota value of developing innovative, homegrown Native solutions to challenges, the aim is to create sustainable and interconnected communities that provide better housing, places for business to thrive, and a healthy supportive environment for youth, elders and families. The design includes sustainable housing and home ownership, a youth shelter, child care, workforce development for the emerging construction jobs, commercial and industrial buildings, community centers and more — including becoming a net zero community, producing all the energy it uses. As construction proceeds, Thunder Valley plans to create its own social enterprise to manage the process and create jobs for Native Americans.

Features: Affordable Housing | Energy Efficiency | CDC | HUD Sustainable Comm. | Indian Reservation

Download Presentation

(Not) According to Custom: The Contraxx Way

Mike Workman, Owner, Contraxx Furniture (Ohio)

Back in the 1990s, an Ohio furniture maker noted that many traditional American furniture manufacturers were vertically integrated — which got in the way of them producing made-to-order furniture for commercial clients. Acting on this significant market opportunity, Contraxx was created as a hub-and-spoke system for building custom furniture for the hotel and hospitality industry. Now, with more than 300 family-owned and operated craft factories and 600 employees in the system, Contraxx can produce customized furniture at any quantity in 60 days or less. And to help keep the businesses and employment local, in 2013, Contraxx created a local multi-craft certification training program to help the area’s next generation learn new methods of specialty manufacturing.

Features: Manufacturing | Craft | Employer-Led | Multi-County Region

Download Presentation

A Healthy, Fresh, Local Backbone: Sprout MN

Cheryal Lee Hills, Executive Director, Region Five Development Commission (North Central MN)
Arlene Jones, Founder, SPROUT MN, LLC

SPROUT MN, LLC is a Central Minnesota-based food hub that promotes the health, economy, and self-reliance of the region by facilitating the availability of fresh, locally produced food. SPROUT aggregates source-identified food products from over 40 regional growers and then distributes the food to five school districts, a local college, hospitals and premier restaurants. SPROUT pioneered the state’s first doctor-prescribed and hospital-supported CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, Choose Health. SPROUT and its partner, Region Five Development Commission, deliver grower education, microloans and business technical assistance. With a larger consortium of partners they are now embarking on a number of placemaking initiatives around the local food value chain.

Features: Food Systems/Hubs | Anchor Customers | 5-County Region

Download Presentation

The Journey and the Destination: Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation

Todd Christensen, Executive Director, Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation (Virginia)

In recent years, Southwest Virginia has been blazing a cultural heritage path toward a creative economy, one based on entrepreneurship that is self-sustaining. Numerous partners are working together to develop the area’s cultural and natural assets, brand the region as “authentic, distinctive, alive,” and position it as a destination for visitors the world over — and an attractive base for entrepreneurs and higher-tech businesses. Along the way, partners have created The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, ’Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network, Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway — and growing economic impact.

Features: Tourism/Recreation | Culture/Branding | Creative Economy | 19-County + 4 City Region

Download Presentation

Modern Wood Energy: The Northern Forest Center

Rob Riley, President, Northern Forest Center (Northern New England)

New England’s Northern Forest Region — northern areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York — knows long, cold winters and heating bills that run consistently high, with nearly 80 cents of every dollar spent on heating oil leaving the regional economy. The idea of heating with by-products from healthy tree harvesting and thinning is attractive in a region with high energy demand, heavy reliance on fuel oil, and extensive forest resources. The Northern Forest Center has been transforming this idea into reality by linking local landowners and firms to opportunity in the growing wood pellet market — while helping families, businesses, schools and town halls access lower-cost, home-grown energy — through its Model Neighborhoods Wood Heat Initiative.

Features: Renewable Energy | Forestry | 4-State Region

Download Presentation

Healthy Developments: New Orleans Works

Bonita Robertson, Site Director, New Orleans Works (New Orleans)

This regional collaborative — chaired, staffed and coordinated by the Greater New Orleans Foundation — is successfully meeting the needs of hospitals and other employers in the healthcare and biosciences sectors by preparing low-skilled job seekers and incumbent workers to enter and pursue career pathways that address critical workforce needs in both sectors. Woven into the Works are employer, government and college partnerships — and the investments of a multi-funder collaborative of foundations and private businesses. So far, it’s brought new, local people into the health and biosciences workforce, and it is improving worker retention, job quality and pay, and patient satisfaction along the way.

Features: Health Care/Bioscience | Career Ladders | Employer Partnerships | Multi-Parish Area

Download Presentation

Doing Economic Development Finance Differently: A Primer

Lisa Richter, Principal, Avivar Capital (California)

Doing economic development differently typically requires getting creative about development finance as well as finding investment entry points, mitigating risk to form unusual public-private development finance partnerships, making components of complex value chains of activity “deal-ready,” engaging individual donors and investors in innovation — and mastering the art and science of capital stacks and impact investing. Lisa will offer an overview of emerging trends and innovations in the changing economic development finance terrain.

Download Presentation

Exploring Wealth-Creating Value Chains

Melissa Levy, Senior Associate, Yellow Wood Associates (Vermont)
Shanna Ratner, Principal, Yellow Wood Associates (Vermont)
Barbara Wyckoff, Director, Dynamica Consulting (Maryland)

The WealthWorks approach to economic development encourages community stakeholders to make solid investments across multiple forms of essential community capital, root assets in place through local ownership and influence, and ensure that many residents in a region - especially low-income people, places and firms - participate and benefit. The tool for organizing this action is a WealthWorks value chain, a network of people, businesses, organizations and agencies that work together to meet market demand. Value chains provide a way to identify and bring underutilized resources that exist in any region into more productive use by investing in and combining them in new and creative ways, driven by demand — and energized by the benefits they create for value chain partners. Shanna, Barbara and Melissa will lay out the basic principles, practices and process involved in constructing and coordinating effective and productive value chains.


Working with Employers: Smarter STEM Pathways

Katie Merrow, Vice President of Community Impact, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

Across New Hampshire, firms in key sectors driving the state’s economy are experiencing the same critical need: the demographic shifts of reduced in-migration and retiring baby boomers are leaving employers wanting for workers skilled in mathematics, science, and technical fields, who can fill well-paying jobs. And too few students coming through the state’s education system are either interested or prepared for good STEM-related jobs available in growing firms. The new Smarter Pathways initiative, convened by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, has state leaders in business, education, government and the nonprofit sector now working together to help New Hampshire students stay engaged in science, technology, engineering and math — and come out of school ready for solid careers right in the state. Katie will explain what it is taking to marshal the employers and other partners — and why the community foundation has been the one to do it.

Download Presentation

Owning Up: Building Opportunity Potential through Land Ownership

Sam Cook, Director, Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention, Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation (South Carolina)

When economic opportunity is rooted in land, but “owners” don’t have clear title to that land, it is hard to connect that land asset to meeting market demand for anything. This is a critical barrier for many African American families with land suitable for sustainable forestry or agriculture. Fixing this “broken” piece of any value chain can be an important preparatory step to helping residents in heirs-property regions get ahead. Sam will outline the work of pilots in several states — with investment from USDA and the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, plus many regional foundations, nonprofits, businesses and agencies — that are helping small-plot landowners gain clear title to their land, while they are learning sustainable forest management planning and practices. Through these coordinated systems of support, the financial and ecological value of forestland will increase significantly, local land ownership will be retained, and access to markets — low-value and high value — will increase as well.

Download Presentation

Rooting Wealth through Buying Local: Local First Arizona

Kimber Lanning, Founder & Executive Director, Local First Arizona

Studies show that money stays and re-circulates more often when spent at locally owned businesses. Local businesses also help increase hometown pride and more firmly connect people to the place where they live — and a recent Knight Foundation study showed that “connection to place” is the leading indicator in places experiencing prosperity across a broad spectrum. Founded in 2003 by a trio of small business owners, Local First Arizona is working to strengthen communities and local economies through growing, supporting and celebrating locally owned businesses throughout the state. With nearly 2,500 business and individual “localist” members statewide, Local First Arizona is the largest organization of its kind in the country. Kimber will share their why, wherefore and impact to date.

Download Presentation

Rooting Wealth Through Entrepreneurship

Ines Polonius, CEO, Communities Unlimited, Inc. (Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Alabama)

Small firms may have to strengthen their capacity to take advantage of opportunities that surface in wealth-building value chains — and new local businesses might have to form in order to fill “opportunity gaps” in value chains. In regions where scarce public development dollars largely concentrate on assisting larger and well-heeled firms, smaller firms may miss the opportunity boat. Ines will detail specialized assistance that is helping smaller, low-resourced firms in a multi-state region equip themselves to tap into more market opportunity, including tailored stage-of-business TA, special loan and investment products, and help with transitioning small businesses to new local owners when founders retire or move on.

Download Presentation

Working with Anchor Institutions to Build Community Wealth

Rita Hodges, Assistant Director, Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania
Sarah McKinley, Research Associate, Democracy Collaborative

One way that “different doers” are increasing opportunity for marginalized communities, workers and firms is by tapping the demand for goods and services that are being purchased by large institutions — like schools and colleges, medical centers, and other large organizations or companies that are deeply rooted in a place and not likely to go anywhere. But who organizes this demand, and how does the conversation open, keep going, and turn into collaboration and investment in action like Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives, Springfield’s Wellspring Collaborative, the Atlanta Lettuce Project — and other emerging anchor-leveraging initiatives? Rita and Sarah will share stories, learning to date — and what is emerging in the “anchor space.”

Download Presentation

Banding Together: Forging Networks to Grow Opportunity

John Littles, Executive Director, McIntosh SEED (Mississippi and Alabama)
Cheryl Peterson, Project Manager, McIntosh SEED

Several years back, John and Cheryl started working with existing coops of African-American-owned farms, all small producers in Mississippi and Alabama, more than half earning less than $2,500 per year, and many not in full production. The aim was to work together to build a value chain that could tap larger markets with a higher return for the farmers. What they found at the outset was untapped potential to build and leverage relationships within the existing coops themselves, and then even more potential in networking the coops. Building relationships and trust is slow work, but a critical boon to saving costs on things like gaining GAP certification and purchasing insurance required by larger scale customers — not to mention meeting higher-return demand. John and Cheryl will share the steps to help producers find their self-interest in linking up for more and better.

Download Presentation

Doing Economic Development With, Not For: PUSH Buffalo

Aaron Bartley, Executive Director and Co-Founder, PUSH Buffalo (New York)

The mission of PUSH Buffalo is to mobilize residents to create strong neighborhoods with quality, affordable housing, expand local hiring opportunities, and to advance economic justice in Buffalo. The starting point is neighborhood organizing, which targeted PUSH’s initial focus on quality housing options for current residents — but in ways that created new enterprises, ownership and job pipelines for those same residents. That led to PUSH Green, a community-based, energy efficiency program that reduces neighborhood residents’ energy usage and bills, and creates more local jobs. Aaron will share what he has learned about how engaging residents in place can catalyze and fuel place-based and -focused economic opportunity.

Download Presentation

The Real Trick: Turning a State Economic Development Culture Around

Heidi Khokhar, Director of Operations, Rural Development Initiatives (Oregon)

For decades, Rural Development Initiatives, a statewide nonprofit, has worked across Oregon to enhance economic vitality in rural communities. For the past 13 years, through a leadership development program supported by local foundations, it has engaged a network of hundreds of community leaders, many of them eager to do more to bolster their local economies. To answer that demand, through a partnership with three regional foundations and two universities, RDI is now helping self-selecting communities explore and use the WealthWorks approach to advance regional prosperity, self-reliance and sector strength — and to increase jobs and incomes for lower-income residents and firms. This action has caught the attention of state development agencies, which are now in conversation with RDI about how their resources might contribute to the regional value chains and solutions that emerge.

Download Presentation