Interesting news highlighted in an op-ed by Senators Corker and Coons with regards to a new Food for Peace Reform Act. The legislation, originally submitted in 2015 and resubmitted depicts one of many critical needs for refugee support services in international settings such as the developing famine crisis in Sudan. Beyond basic needs of food and shelter, refugees resettled in the U.S. require a variety of psycho-social, education, health care and economic development services. These services help speed up the process of assimilation which in turn can provide economic benefits both to these new American households but also to their newly adopted communities.
When it comes to rejuvenating an urban community, expert opinions will often cite a variety of political, social and economic ills that range from the need for education reforms, infrastructure investments, improved racial equality and political reforms among many critical leverage points. Adding citing lighting is not something that leapst to mind. however Detroit has accomplished a milestone on its way to its goal of urban revitalization by doing just that. Read more about the city of Detroit’s latest success here.
As the summer hiatus is winding down here in North America, I finished up some business and vacation travels that took me from the Midwest through parts of southern Ontario and Quebec into New England. What strikes me most when I pass through some of these small communities is their proximity to nearby tourist destinations and how little some have appeared to benefit economically from this. I wondered what sustainable community development from an economic perspective looks like if towns don’t benefit from these typically large “revenue-generators”. Where is the intersection of tourism and sustainable community development located and what does this symbiotic relationship look like? There are several perspectives and resources accessible here that can provide some intellectual momentum for finding these complex solutions.
Does rural economic growth differ depending on where you are or are the principles applicable everywhere? Last week I trotted up to Ontario to visit our neighbors to the north and begin an informal survey of some local communities in southern Ontario that include nearby First Nation communities. Does rural development, economically-speaking look the same as it does States-side? What constitutes sound, sustainable rural development for a community such as Atikokan for example? Is it different for this tiny rural town, nestled in the rugged, timber-covered lands on the northern boundary of Quetico Provincial Park in southern Ontario than one of its First Nation neighbors such as Seine River? Are they both dependent upon the tourism industry to bring visitors and their purchasing power or is the key to economic development the extraction of precious metal mineral resources such as gold deposits identified just 23 km north of Atikokan in 2009? Or does it come from Canadian provincial government intervention programs such as RED(LINK) to create entrepreneurship via local partnerships in technology, social enterprise and cultural? Is there a happy medium? What avenues exist for geographically-isolated First Nation communities such as Seine River with limited local assets such as a health center, education facility and a community center? This survey will look to tease out key factors in the coming months that these local communities can leverage to revitalize and strengthen their local human capital to link to regional and national economic growth and ultimately answer the question of what works best in rural economic development for these isolated communities?
I sat in on a webinar, Creating Green Jobs for Low-Income Individuals in late March on green job creation at the base of the pyramid (hosted by Jason Friedman, Friedman & Associates) and I was pleasantly surprised. I am a public skeptic (and a closet-optimist!) when it comes to green enterprises and green economy which seems to need subsidies and lots of public goodwill to make a go of it in today’s competitive business world. Green enterprises are nice to talk about but will they ever be profitable and achieve a dent on local economies or create local wealth for communities? Cue two community development non-profits, on opposite coasts of the US that are profitable, create local jobs, serve a substantial client base, and reverse environmental degradation. Too good to be true? Terry McDonald, Executive Director, of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) in Lane County, Oregon (near Eugene) doesn’t think so. And he should know because SVDP serves 84,000 clients yearly and hosts no-less than 3 profitable green businesses. One of SVDP’s businesses, a recycled glass company, Aurora Glass realized approximately $1 million US in total yearly sales and employs 25 staff. On the opposite coast, Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises, Inc. (GBCE) works to create profitable green enterprises in the local communities of Bridgeport, CT. Adrienne Farrar Houëll, Executive Director explains that GBCE launched The Green Team, an environmentally-friendly construction company and Park Green, a mattress reclamation and recycling company less than a year ago. Although in relative infancy, the two green enterprises have already created a total of 33 new jobs in the green sector. GBCE intends to build upon these accomplishments with the goal of creating 100 new jobs in 2-3 new green profitable businesses over the next 4 or 5 years. My skepticism for sustainable green enterprises continues to erode as I watch them grow!
In an effort to increase financial inclusion under a 2005 federal law, the FDIC is attempting to bring more of those excluded or under-included back into the formal banking financial system in the US. A 2011 survey published last fall by the FDIC and US Census Bureau found that unbanked households in the US rose slightly by 821,000 over a two-year period. In fact, the survey found that nearly 1 in 4 of all households in the US were found to be unbanked or under-banked, defined as anyone in a household who doesn’t have access to some type of bank account or any accounts at all. Many turn instead to non-mainstream options such as payday lenders or non-bank money-orders to meet their financial services needs. In the US, minorities are disproportionately excluded with as many half of minority households reported to be unbanked. Financial inclusion is not new or limited to the US. The estimates may vary worldwide, however as recently as 2012 the World Bank calculated that 2.5 billion adults remained unbanked or underserved although defined more broadly as “no access to any formal financial services, products or institutions”. With the linkages between access to financial services and poverty, even a savings account provides a route to economic stability for many poor households and a potential path out of poverty.