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.
After my recent research into community economic development in Atikokan and Siene River First Nations (Ontario) in September, my travels will take me to Ely, MN this month to discuss similar economic potential with business and community leaders. Like so many other rural communities, this small rural community on the doorstep of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness managed by the USFS is at a crossroads of an aging demographic and lower patronage rates to the park resulting in fewer tourism dollars. Sulfide mining presents an opportunity both in terms of jobs, increased local business growth and a future for youth so that they may stay in the area. . It is a chance for communities, similar to Atikokan to survive. A central question that I will continue to explore in future posts is whether extractive industries are the only option for a community’s survival, particularly for the retention of its youth or other options available such as expanding environmental tourism or a blend of both? Check out a couple rural perspectives in these links here in Ely and MN
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!