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Panel discusses partnership to help economic development

By Amanda Duncan

Oct. 25, 2012

The Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs hosted a panel discussion on Oct. 18, how cities with the combined efforts of federal and local governments, and community partners can achieve and maintain economic resiliency, and how community assets such as universities and foundations can provide a foundation to help attain economic resiliency.

Cleveland State is a partner of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) fellowship program. The SC2 fellowship program is part of the Obama Administration’s initiative Strong Cities on revitalizing the economy.

SC2 is a leadership program that sends, selects, trains and places fellows, some early in their career or mid-career, around the country to provide local governments with assistance to implement strategic projects.

Some of the fellows were in the audience to gain insight from the panelists on some of the ideas that they have come up with to achieve economic resiliency.

The cities that the fellows have been sent to are Chester Pa., Detroit, Fresno, Calif., Memphis, Tenn., New Orleans and Cleveland.

Ned Hill, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs, introduced the panelists and gave background into their careers and then spoke about the fellows.

“[The] role and job of these fellows are to be the pathfinders and, in many ways, the experience they share,” Hill said. “We are going to be learning an awful lot as we figure out new ways in which we govern American cities, the lessons they bring forward.”

Hill mentioned the grid titled “Frame Work for Economic Development” provides useful context about the strategy. He used the grid to explain strategy and contexts that were broken down into years.

Hill spoke about how change is hard when time is broken down into different aspects such as community development time and political time.

Hill explained that community change time is 20 years according to his grid, and the challenge is to break it down to political time.

“The only thing that we can do is change the community assets so that they are more valuable for people who are going to be making new sets of products, building new houses, improving the places in the housing market,” Hill said. “That’s how we change and affect the lives of our residents.”

The panel included Erika Poethig, the acting assistant secretary for Policy and Development and Research for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. She was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to be HUD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development.

Poethig gave background about how the SC2 program was created through the listening tour that was taken around the country to figure out what worked and what didn’t in cities.

“We concluded that we needed to bust federal silos, provide grants and support technical assistance and capacity building, and anchor private sectors and anchor institutions like Cleveland State philanthropy for cities to build upon,” Poethig said.

She also stated that the federal government wanted to support those partnerships to beat the immediate emerging challenges at the local level and provide tools for cities to help them either create or bring to life their local visions.

Daryl Rush, the director of the Department of Community Development for Cleveland, spoke of the need for coordination and partnership among organizations for economic revitalization. He talked about the community development of Cleveland starting with the late 80s and 90s restructuring and how it played a critical role in how they function today.

“Community development has been a journey,” Rush said. “It has amped up in different points in the journey,” Rush said.

Rush discussed the importance of the philanthropic institutions in the city which he stated that “we are lucky to have.”

Cleveland, like many cities around the country, is adjusting to the challenges that were created by the economic crisis.

Rush said that the mayor’s strategic focus, which is “not a shotgun but a laser,” has the goal of making Cleveland a city of choice and is working to make the assets of Cleveland desirable.

Rush talked about the mayor’s Urban Agenda and that there were priorities that needed to be addressed for economic recovery, one of which was demolition, aligned with what neighborhoods needed.

Discussing “changing our focus,” Rush cited two recently published articles on Ohio City and the Forgotten Triangle.

The human element plays a big impact on economic resiliency and India Pierce Lee focused on this aspect. Lee is the program director for Neighborhoods, Housing and Community Developments at the Cleveland Foundation.

She talked about the role of Cleveland Foundation developing a partnership with the city and the community. She showed a video about the University Circle Project which brought a lot of community assets together like Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital and other non-profits to work together

“It’s a way to leverage human capital for maximum impact and urban laboratory that has been underway for seven years,” Lee said.

Francisca G.C. Richter, a research economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, added to this panel discussion by talking about education and a long term vision, and how day by day actions lead to economic development.
“Education is the main component that drives economic development,” Richter said.
She talked about her colleagues’ study about education and why it is so important to economic development.

“Even accounting for other things like tax structure and weather, the combination of education of people in the state and the pattern bearing on them were the most important,” Richter said.

She said that our richest asset was our population. She gave the example of the Slavic Village neighborhood, where they had a lot of foreclosures, but people have developed community gardens. A youth group has set up a shop where people can go to fix their bikes. This is a place where she saw hope and a unified vision.

“That effort of federal help in the community was helpful,” Richter said.

There are many factors that can provide to achieve economic resiliency starting with people, then local government, community partners like universities and foundations, as well as the federal government all working together to create a stable future for all people.