This blog post was written in response to a group blogging event, hosted by Living Cities, which asks, “What will it take to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people faster?”
It will take more collaborative cross-sector efforts to advance both economic growth and equitable access to opportunity (i.e., Growth & Opportunity) through job creation, job preparation and job access strategies. To be effective, these strategies must not only be integrated, they must also better connect local communities to regional economies.
So what does this look like in practice? We recently brought together the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and three tireless advocates for Growth & Opportunity in Northeast Ohio, where the Fund for Our Economic Future calls home, to provide a snapshot of our economy and examples of successful job creation, job preparation and job access strategies at work. The result is “Growth & Opportunity: A Call to Action,” which we hope emboldens others to join us in our quest for transformative opportunity-rich economic growth.
We are already heartened by our business partners in our regional economic strategy (called Team NEO) agreeing that, in addition to job, income and output growth, a fourth top-line goal will be increasing labor force participation rates in economically distressed neighborhoods. They recognize with us that while every job is good, some jobs are better than others if we are to transform the economy. The task now is to make sure this goal gets translated into how our community sets infrastructure priorities, apportions business expansion incentives, and connects workforce strategies to emerging industries through apprenticeships, skills-based hiring programs, and industry-led development of career ladders.
Though the economic analysis and examples of Growth & Opportunity efforts in the Call to Action are Northeast Ohio-focused, the lessons are quite replicable. Certainly, the latest economic recovery has strengthened the case for a commitment to strategies that result in both more economic growth and more access to opportunity. Rising inequality and stagnant mobility are key issues that affect much of the country, not just Northeast Ohio.
Research, including our Fund’s What Matters to Metros, shows that we cannot solve these problems through job creation alone. Indeed, metros with strong job growth have also tended to have higher poverty rates, higher inequality and crime. Moreover, given the economic development patterns of the last several decades, job growth is occurring farther away from where those who need jobs live. In essence, entire neighborhoods have been cut off from the broader economic growth.
Through our Call to Action, we hope to catalyze more long-term integrated thinking and work together across sectors to advance both growth and opportunity. Economic research indicates that if we don’t get this right, our growth stalls. But perhaps more importantly, we will not fulfill the American promise—and then what kind of society are we?
The Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaboration of funders, including foundations, education institutions, hospital systems, associations and others, has been tackling these issues for the past decade through grantmaking, convening and research.