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Driving Economic Mobility Through Community Solutions

November 22, 2016
Blog post by Nathan Ohle, Senior Advisor at the Economic Development Administration

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Nathan Ohle, Senior Advisor at the Economic Development Administration.

Across the country, locally-driven economic development strategies and partnerships are helping to create economic mobility and opportunity for some of the most distressed communities. The challenges that large and small communities face in today’s complex economy require the federal government to explore new approaches and new ways to partner with and empower locally-led innovators. With its place-based approach to economic development, the Obama administration has empowered local leaders in distressed communities by breaking down federal government silos and encouraging collaboration among agencies and local leaders.

Last week, President Obama signed the Community Solutions Council Executive Order that recognizes this approach to place-based work, creating the Community Solutions Council. The Council will provide a formal structure for federal agencies to continue the coordination already begun through programs like Promise Zones, Investing in Manufacturing Communities (IMCP), and Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER), among others. These programs were designed to deliver more effective, streamlined, and responsive federal technical assistance, and also improve the way the federal government works in partnership with local communities.

Including leaders from the White House and federal government agencies, the Council will develop and implement policies around locally-led, bottoms-up approaches to address issues ranging from education to economic development. This “community solutions” approach is currently used by federal-local partnerships in more than 1,800 places across the country. From Fresno to Baltimore, federal leaders are working across traditional agency lines and offering hands-on, locally-relevant assistance.

For example, in San Antonio, Texas, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have been working closely with the local community to foster economic development. San Antonio was named a Promise Zone and an IMCP Community because of its unique opportunity to capitalize on local manufacturing and an innovative ecosystem. While Promise Zones and IMCP are run by HUD and EDA respectively, both agencies are working more closely to ensure their programs are aligned as they engage other federal partners. EDA has provided technical assistance and grant resources to the San Antonio community to spur economic opportunity around the transportation and equipment manufacturing industry.

The November 17 Community Solutions Executive Order helped to crystalize the work this administration has done to become a better partner with local leadership. In this country’s most distressed communities, people do not only need jobs, but opportunities to build skills and create careers. These economic opportunities will support families and lift many out of stifling poverty. At EDA, we are proud of the work that we have done to help local communities build capacity and capitalize on opportunities for growth and innovation.

Place-based planning and grant support is a foundational principle of EDA’s approach to helping communities create the conditions for economic growth. EDA has long recognized that each community is unique in its challenges, assets and capabilities, and this community solutions approach to economic mobility perfectly aligns with how we can help communities prosper. To deliver on this approach, EDA wants to marshal the power of service, social innovation, and partnerships to solve our most pressing challenges. EDA will continue to be a partner in building locally-led, place-based approaches that will create economic opportunity and mobility for communities across the country.