Looking for Progress: Connecting Opportunity to Economic Development in Lake County

By Carolyn Saxton, President & CEO, Legacy Foundation


As part of our ongoing work exploring the lessons and recommendations offered in Looking for Progress in America’s Smaller Legacy Cities: A Report for Place-based Funders, we asked some of the participants in the study: How has revitalization proceeded in your community, and how might your foundation and local partners ensure that economic growth and economic opportunity develop in a coordinated fashion? Carolyn Saxton, president & CEO of the Legacy Foundation, shares her thoughts:

During the past year the Funders’ Network’s Federal Reserve-Philanthropy Initiative conducted site visits to several industrial cities: Rochester, New York; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Chattanooga, Tenn. The purpose of these visits was to explore four small cities that appeared to have experienced some measure of revitalization in the post Great Recession environment.

I was one of several community foundation leaders invited to participate in these exploratory journeys and I went to each (with the exception of Chattanooga). These trips were particularly important given Legacy Foundation’s work in four communities in Lake County, Indiana: Gary, East Chicago, Hammond and Whiting. Once a thriving center of steel production and other forms of manufacturing, Lake County has seen a loss of manufacturing beginning in the 1960s. This has contributed to the related problems of economic distress, population loss, property abandonment, and loss of municipal tax base. The effects of this decline persist into the present, manifesting in high levels of joblessness, low-performing schools, and neighborhood deterioration.

Our discussions following the four site visits evolved into debating the question of where these cities were on the arc of economic growth and economic opportunity. We generally agreed that place-based funders are central not only to advancing economic opportunity among disenfranchised populations, but to connecting opportunity-oriented programs to economic development efforts. Two current programs in Lake County reflect the Legacy Foundation’s commitment to shaping the arc of economic opportunity over the long term.

Three years ago Lake County was one of six Indiana counties selected by the state for a multi-year pilot “On My Way Pre-K”, an initiative for economically vulnerable 4-year-olds to have an early childhood pre-kindergarten educational experience.

Studies show:
• 90% of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of 5.
• Children in poverty face academic and social opportunity gaps including a lack of early exposure to language, reading and math.
• Children from low income families typically start school a year to a year and a half behind their peers. The average fourth-grader growing up in poverty is already three grade levels behind — and only half of every fourth-grade class will graduate from high school.
• This achievement gap negatively impacts the local workforce and economic development.
• Numerous research studies have demonstrated that that this gap is lessened by providing high-quality early learning environments for children who live in disadvantaged environments.

Parents from Gary, East Chicago, Whiting, Hammond and other Lake County communities select the pre-school where their child will attend from a list of qualified providers. Supplemental programs are designed to involve them in their child’s learning from kindergarten through third grade. Legacy Foundation and other funders raised the necessary funds to qualify for a state match which together totaled $3.6 million for hundreds of Lake County children and their families.  This project has a long-term waiting period to determine if the children will succeed academically, but it provides the equitable opportunity that these children would not have had otherwise.

For sustainable change to take root it is important to have those most affected to be included as partners in order to work on a resolution and address inequitable opportunities. As place-based funders, our role is to ensure that those who are experiencing the oppression are involved in developing solutions. This thought is the lens for Legacy Foundation’s Neighborhood Spotlight initiative.

Neighborhood Spotlight engages community residents through a collective impact process to develop and act on plans for transforming their own neighborhoods.  What is collective impact?  It is people sharing ideas to make their neighborhood a better place to live and work. Selected neighborhoods receive customized year-long mentoring to engage residents, business owners, and school and government personnel to gather opinions on neighborhood concerns which need improvement, such as jobs, education, and transportation. Work groups around each identified area are then convened to develop improvement goals. Ultimately the goals from each work group are brought to the larger group and an overall plan for the neighborhood is developed. Gary-Emerson neighborhood was chosen last year to take part in Neighborhood Spotlight, while the Gary-Miller neighborhood — selected three years ago — has already been executing projects. One of their action steps was to create an environment to promote and encourage entrepreneurial growth. With Legacy’s support, residents can now take advantage of financial literacy programs and small business development workshops. They have also established a small business incubator in their neighborhood. We have recently received a grant from the Regional Development Authority to support projects from their transportation plan.

So what did I take away from our visits to the smaller legacy cities we studied as part of the Federal Reserve-Philanthropy Initiative? Thinking retrospectively, I would argue that it is more than just economic opportunity that we as funders need to provide. Our role is to create a level playing field for those who are disenfranchised.  Our role is to ensure that we are providing equitable opportunity, which takes the discussion much deeper. How do we define equitable opportunity?

Here’s an illustration you’re probably already familiar with:

Three children of different heights go to a ball game. They only have standing room which is at an ivy-covered fence and none can see over the top. Each child is given a box to stand on to help with their viewing. The tallest child is in fine shape and is able to see every play.  The second child can see over the fence if he stands on his toes. The third child is still about a foot shorter than the top of the fence. He only gets a view of the ivy he faces. Equal opportunity? Yes. Each child was at the game, had a place at the fence and was given a box to stand on. Equitable? No. Each child needed a different number of boxes to see over the fence and watch the game.

If we only look at economic growth and economic opportunity, we are missing that key factor of equity.  Jobs might be available which in turn will build economic growth. But if we don’t make it possible for everyone to be prepared equitably to compete for those jobs, we will always have those left out of the recovery continuum. And we’ll always have children unable to see over that fence.

Neighborhood Spotlight and On My Way Pre-K are steps forward in providing equitable opportunity.  Neither can be easily evaluated in one, three, or even five years. But as we place-based funders make decisions, we must ensure that our lens is focused on creating an equitable environment for all.

Photo credit: The Journal Gazette

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Peer City Tool and 500 Cities Data: Mapping Trends and Challenges Among Peer Cities

Originally posted May 16, 2017 on Community Commons by Andria Caruthers

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (FRBC) recently introduced the Peer City Identification Tool. The tool identifies peer or “sister” cities that are experiencing similar trends and challenges in equity, economics, and resiliency. It’s meant to provide policymakers, community advocates, and practitioners with context on how their city compares to similar cities. However, it does not mean the cities are the same, but simply highlights cities that are experiencing similar trends and challenges.

The tool was born out of a multi-year study by the FRBC to gather economic and social data on post-industrial cities across the Midwest and Northeast. As opposed to simply publishing a report, the FRBC decided to develop a mapping tool. Today, the tool provides city-level data from 300 cities across the country. Cities with available data have a median population of roughly 100,000.

Since it’s a comparison tool, leaders can see how their own assets and liabilities compare to similar cities in their region and across the country, especially among those with similar histories and challenges. Though the cities may have regional or cultural differences, their shared economic and demographic characteristics have important policy implications for decision makers and planners looking for success stories.  It’s a unique opportunity to share and learn best practices for addressing challenges at the community level.

The tool at work

In the example below, Birmingham, AL is selected as the base city. The cities highlighted in red are its peer cities.


Click image to enlarge or to enter a different city.

From there, a category like equity, resilience, outlook, or housing can be selected to see how it aligns and deviates compared to peer cities.

birm-AL-sister-cities-1024x533Click image to enlarge or to enter a different city.

The tool provides community leaders and advocates with a deeper understanding on where their city is excelling or social and economic areas that need to be addressed.

Pairing Peer Identification Tool Data with 500 Cities Data

With the recent release of the 500 Cities Project data, policymakers and advocates now have access to updated city and tract-level data for chronic disease risk factors, health outcomes, and clinical preventive services. It’s a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the CDC Foundation.

ccMapExport-4-1018x1024Click image to zoom to specific area or to create your own map.

The Peer Identification Tool data gives a snapshot on a variety of social and economic factors among peer cities, like economic resiliency. However, to give an even more robust snapshot, 500 Cities data can be used to explore a variety of health conditions and outcomes.

For example, struggling with unemployment, precarious employment, or poverty can be a factor in higher rates of mental health issues. To explore, 500 Cities data can be brought in to compare the percentage of adults with poor mental health among these sister cities who are experiencing poorer social and economic outcomes. It’s important to note that the base city will have different sister cities in each category, though there may be some overlap.

Birmingham and its sister cities have higher unemployment (median 10.7 percent) than the US rate (4.5 percent as of March 2017), and have seen a decrease in labor share of manufacturing (median -68.8 percent) since 1970. Consequently, they have also seen a decrease in median family income (median -15.4 percent) over the past 10-15 years.

To integrate 500 Cities health-related data into the example, data on the mental health status among adults can be compared among Birmingham and its sister cities. Take a look at the comparison between Birmingham, AL and Rochester, NY mental health statuses. Both are similar in terms of labor market, racial, and socioeconomic conditions.

ccMapExport-5Click image to zoom to specific area or to create your own map.
ccMapExport-7Click image to zoom to a specific area or to create your own map.

Studies have also shown that unemployment can also lead to increased risk for stroke. A recent study looked at 40-59 year old men and women. Unemployed men had a 60 percent chance of stroke and women had a 50 percent chance of stroke- and both were more than 100 percent likely to die from it compared to those steadily employed.

ccMapExport-8Click image to zoom to specific area or to create your own map.
ccMapExport-9Click image to zoom to specific area or to create your own map.

The Peer Identification Tool goes beyond comparing cities based on proximity, culture, population size, etc. In terms of size and proximity, Nashville and Memphis look “similar”, yet are evolving in different ways. With the Peer Tool, users can dive into indicators that provide greater context into how cities have changed over the decades, where they are headed, and what challenges they are facing. By using 500 Cities data on Community Commons, you can take your research a step further to learn, share, and develop strategies based on insights you’ve discovered by comparing your city to sister cities.

To find the 500 Cities data in Community Commons, visit the Map Room and search for “500 Cities.”

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Investing in America’s Workforce

Americas-Workforce-web banner

By Jason Keller

Final revisions to the Interagency Questions and Answers (Q and A’s) Regarding Community Reinvestment were recently released[1] by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). This blog focuses on changes to the definition of community development, specifically references to workforce development or other job training programs for low- or moderate-income (LMI) or unemployed persons as qualified activities. While, activities creating and retaining jobs have long been part of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), this revision offers financial institutions an opportunity to focus on improving access for LMI persons to jobs or job training or other workforce development programs (such as internships or apprenticeships).

As a result of this change, as well as other national developments including the release of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) in July 2014,[2] the Federal Reserve System launched Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers. This collaborative effort between the Federal Reserve System, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at the University of Texas at Austin, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research seeks to strengthen the nation’s economic potential by approaching workforce development efforts as investments, rather than the delivery of social services. This initiative will connect businesses, government, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners to rethink policy and investments, attract new resources, and improve economic mobility for workers.

As part of this initiative, Reserve Banks hosted more than 50 regional roundtables around the country during spring 2017. These events brought together nonprofits, bankers, local business owners, government agencies, community development practitioners, researchers, philanthropists, and others to discuss two key questions:

  1. What opportunities for investment in workforce development exist and what would make workforce development more investable?
  2. How can workforce development efforts be better evaluated?

Five sessions[3] were hosted across the Seventh District by the Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Division at Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. These sessions convened more than 60 local and regional experts in workforce development from both urban and rural settings to discuss desirable outcomes, barriers to greater investment in workforce development, as well as evidence-based tools for analysis. While the sessions differed in attendee backgrounds and geographies, consistency was seen in the need for more industry-led/private sector employer-driven workforce training; a reimagined K-12 educational system that builds the skills needed for today’s technology-driven workplace; and a refocused effort to better understand the needs of millennial, older, minority, and immigrant workers. The valuable information received from these sessions, as well as those held in other regions, is currently being summarized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, with the key themes released this summer.

In the interim, the Investing in America’s Workforce website details how the Federal Reserve System is connecting with partners to hear the current challenges and opportunities for workers and employers and to see examples of how organizations are working together to leverage better investment in workforce systems. The resource center features publications on topics in workforce development, including Engaging Workforce Development – A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations, authored by the Federal Reserve Banks of Kansas City and Dallas. This document is designed to give financial institutions, and organizations interested in partnering with them, tools and information to engage in workforce development activities in ways that may help fulfill obligations under the CRA.

Finally, a Capstone Conference will be held in Austin, Texas, October 4-6, 2017, and a forthcoming volume of essays will highlight successful local and regional research and analysis on related workforce development efforts.

Check back often for updates on the initiative and new research on employment, workforce development, education, and training from around the Federal Reserve System. Join the conversation on Twitter: @InvestInWork; #InvestInWork.

For more information on this initiative and other workforce development and human capital topics, please contact Jason Keller, economic development director within CDPS, at Jason.Keller@chi.frb.org.

[1] See https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/07/25.
[2] See https://www.doleta.gov/WIOA/Overview.cfm.
[3] Sessions were held in Springfield, IL (2); Milwaukee, WI; Des Moines, IA; and Fort Wayne, IN.
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Focus on Small Business: Small Business Credit Survey Results & Small Business Week

By Emily Engel

Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) of the Chicago Federal Reserve, along with all the other Federal Reserve Banks in the system, is now participating in the Small Business Credit Survey. “More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year,” according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), highlighting how small businesses are integral to achieving the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate, which includes maintaining full employment. The New York Federal Reserve recently released results for the small business survey shortly before the SBA’s small business week (#smallbusinessweek) April 30-May 6, 2017,  a national week dedicated to promoting and highlighting the work of entrepreneurs and owners.

Background on the Small Business Credit Survey

The small business credit survey collects information about business performance, financing needs, credit choices, and borrowing experiences of firms with 500 or fewer employees. Responses to the survey provide insight into the dynamics behind aggregate lending trends and noteworthy segments of small businesses. (The results are weighted to reflect the full population of small businesses. However, the survey is not a random sample. Therefore, results should be analyzed with awareness of potential methodological biases.) The survey was launched in 2014 through an effort that merged the regional surveys conducted by several Federal Reserve Banks. The 2016 Survey is the first national small business survey with involvement from all 12 Federal Reserve Banks and input from all 50 states. Over 10,000 small employer firms responded to the survey. Breakdown for respondents from Seventh District states were as follows:

7th District State Number of Respondents
Illinois 234
Indiana 120
Iowa 62
Michigan 131
Wisconsin 112

Highlights of the 2016 Findings

Employer small businesses reported that although many were profitable and optimistic, a significant majority had faced financial challenges, experienced funding gaps or relied on personal finances.

The vast majority (87 percent) of employer firms rely on the owners’ personal credit scores to obtain funding. Additionally, over 75 percent of firms with financial challenges used personal funds to address the problem, as opposed to other options such as making a late payment or cutting staff hours (see chart 1).

Chart 1


Many small business owners struggle to cover their operating expenses. Lack of access to credit often inhibits the ability to grow. These issues were even more pronounced for the smallest firms, which were less likely to receive necessary funding and more likely to rely on personal finances to operate. These findings highlight the obstacles to growth that small businesses face, and raise new questions about how to overcome them.

Only 30 percent of the firms surveyed were considered “healthy” according to the following criteria: (1) (2015) profitability; (2) low credit risk (business or owner has good or excellent credit score); and (3) growth through retained earnings (rather than owner’s personal funds or credit to fund the business), as can be seen in the image below.

FINAL Small Business Credit Survey IG

Additional reports on the 2016 Small Business Credit Survey will be released throughout 2017. These will take an in-depth look into specific types of small businesses, including start-ups, minority firms, and microbusinesses.

Background on National Small Business Week


National Small Business Week serves as the nation’s salute to the spirit of entrepreneurship and business ownership. Since 1963, the President has designated one week to recognize the contributions of small businesses to the economy. This year, the week of April 30 through May 6 is dedicated to celebrating America’s 28 million small businesses. Whether your business is just an idea or you’re looking to take your venture to the next level, Small Business Week provides useful training, networking opportunities, and special events across the country. To learn more about local SBA offices and the small business week events happening in your area, connect with your local SBA office.

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Understanding the PCIT or What do Wauwatosa and Waltham have in Common?

By Susan Longworth, Taz George, and Mark O’Dell

Peer City Identification Tool

What do Wauwatosa, WI and Waltham, MA have in common? A new online data visualization instrument from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Community Development and Policy Studies division sheds light on common trends within groups of peer cities, sometimes revealing unexpected connections. This blog demonstrates how the Peer City Identification Tool (PCIT) can help municipalities understand key challenges and opportunities in the context of their peers.

What stands out about Wauwatosa and its peers is a median family income far higher than the median of all cities in the dataset (the “ICI-300 median”) that powers the tool. The resilience theme, reflected in Table 1 below, describes economic changes and labor market conditions, and in this case it indicates that these cities are particularly resilient. Wauwatosa and its peers have all lost manufacturing jobs at a rate similar to the ICI 300 as a whole, but overall have retained a higher level of manufacturing employment than the ICI median, and boast lower unemployment rates and higher labor force participation.  This resilience is further indicated by median family incomes that are high and growing, as opposed to declining incomes for the PCIT dataset as a whole.

Table 1: Resilience

Table 1: Resilience

Table 2: Equity


Exploring Wauwatosa’s peers through the other data themes sheds additional light on the city’s path to resilience. For example, Wauwatosa’s peers in the Equity theme (Table 2), which considers a city’s racial and socioeconomic conditions, again paint a picture that diverges from the ICI dataset as a whole. In particular, Wauwatosa’s population is highly educated, with over half of the population possessing a bachelor’s degree – the highest percentage amongst its peers. At the same time, Wauwatosa has maintained a very low poverty rate and a low wage-based Gini coefficient, reflecting low levels of inequality – something that is unusual given the high median family incomes. Notably, however, Wauwatosa is overwhelmingly white, a characteristic that drives its low dissimilarity indices, a measure of racial segregation (within communities).

Table 3: Outlook


The Outlook theme, which explores signs of a city’s demographic and economic future, adds nuance to Wauwatosa’s current conditions (Table 3). First of all, Wauwatosa is relatively small. Some might argue that its small and stable population size insulates it from the challenges experienced by places that are experiencing population fluctuations.  Others might point out that its small size limits its resources and capacity – a challenge experienced by small cities that are not so economically resilient. Wauwatosa does appear to have a relatively small percentage of “dependent” population as indicated by a lower than average percentage of families with children and a higher than average percentage of working age residents. A potential challenge to its future growth is that Wauwatosa is not attracting foreign born residents.

Table 4: Housing


Wauwatosa again demonstrates relative stability among peers in the PCIT’s housing screen, which measures housing affordability, tenure, and age of the housing stock (Table 4). A high homeownership rate, low vacancy rate and relatively low percentage of rent burdened households reflects healthy housing conditions, a not unexpected finding given a population with high incomes and low poverty rate. Of note, however, is Wauwatosa’s aging housing stock. Again, should the city decide it needs to attract new residents, an older housing stock may deter young families.

Concluding thoughts

This high-level analysis of Wauwatosa indicates a small city that is prospering. However, given that the city at some point experienced a dramatic shift in its economic landscape, as indicated by a high level of manufacturing job losses, it begs the question of how city leaders found their footing. What does the economic landscape look like today? What kinds of jobs are held by Wauwatosa residents that appear to contribute to a broad based prosperity? Is it purely its location as a wealthy suburb of Milwaukee that establishes this position of strength? Conversely, to what extent could challenges faced by Milwaukee impact the economic prospects of Wauwatosa? How is Wauwatosa avoiding the trend of increasing suburban poverty? What could be learned from / shared with other suburbs of mid-sized urban areas facing real demographic and economic challenges?

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What is Money Smart Week?

By Heather Greenwell, Outreach Program Team Lead, Public Affairs, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago


MSW Primary Website

In an effort to focus consumer attention on the importance of managing personal finances, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago coordinates Money Smart Week (MSW) during Financial Literacy Month every year in April. During Money Smart Week, April 22 through 29, the Federal Reserve brings together a wide range of organizations – government agencies, financial institutions, libraries, schools and individuals – to promote financial literacy in a week of concentrated programming on financial education. This campaign is a wonderful example of the collective impact that can be achieved by a group of dedicated and passionate individuals.

Money Smart Week is a national public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances. The campaign is coordinated through the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago who began the effort in 2002 with 40 Chicago-based organizations who constituted the Money Smart Advisory Council. Today, in the program’s 15th year, thousands of classes and events are provided across the country through the collaboration of organizations including financial institutions, schools, not-for-profits, and government agencies. Programming is offered to all demographics and income levels and covers all facets of personal finance from how to open a bank account to saving for college to planning for retirement.

Examples of the types of MSW events that may be of particular interest to organizations working with low- to moderate-income populations around the Seventh District include:

Bank on it & to your credit, Traverse City, MI

Event description: In this two part session, consumers learn about the different types of financial institutions, their representatives, and five reasons to use a bank. Participants also discover the types of banks accounts, how to open and use an account, and additional bank services offered with deposit accounts. Information regarding what credit is and why it’s important, as well as the purpose and uses of a credit report is also shared. Attendees learn how to order a copy of the credit report, to read and correct the credit report, and to check for identity theft, leaving with an understanding of the difference between good and bad credit, how credit affects a borrower, and how to rebuild credit history.

Show me the money story time, Lafayette, IN

Event description: At “Show Me the Money” special story time, children enjoy stories and then try their hand with budgeting on a shopping trip in the Tippecanoe County Public Library “store” (money provided).

Fair housing: What you need to know about renting, Peoria, IL

Event description: Attendees gain an understanding of housing discrimination: how to spot it, what to do if it happens, and ways the community can help prevent it. Participants leave with a greater understanding of renter rights and obligations, in addition to getting updates of fair lending laws.

Ready, set, retire, Fort Dodge, IA

Event description: Participants can choose from a menu of workshops to become better informed to make retirement decisions. Topics include: investing during retirement, social security, Medicare, long-term care insurance, putting your legal affairs in order, taking advantage of veterans’ benefits, healthy aging brain, and a “welcome to retirement” simulation.

Road to credit, Madison, WI

Event description: Participants learn what practices and events have the greatest impact on a credit score, how to recover from poor credit, and what factors lenders use in decision making.

For more information about free events on a variety of personal finance topics nearby or to learn more about becoming a Money Smart Week Partner, please visit www.moneysmartweek.org.

In addition to the Money Smart Week events listed on www.moneysmartweek.org, the Federal Reserve has developed other resources to help individuals be Money Smart all year long. One resource that is new this year is the Money Smart Week E-learning module that can be used by personal finance educators, coaches, and consumers at any time of the year. This fun, interactive, online course offers three 20-minute learning modules to help increase knowledge of personal finance, budgeting, and credit. The course is offered in both English and Spanish. This course is part of econlowdown, a free educator resource portal from the Federal Reserve that offers over one hundred courses in economics and personal finance that enable educators and coaches to track student progress and assess learning.


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Looking for Progress in America’s Smaller Legacy Cities: A Report for Place-based Funders

By: Alicia Kitsuse, The Funders’ Network & Jeremiah P. Boyle, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

The Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and New York recently released, in partnership with The Funders’ Network, a whitepaper presenting findings from a four-city study tour of older, legacy cities. 

This blog is the first in an occasional series stemming from that report. Future installments will reflect the views of some of the place-based funders that collaborated with Federal Reserve staff in the study tour visits and the subsequent report.  This initial blog features, as background, the executive summary of the report.  The full report can be downloaded, here.

OIC_COVERPlace-based funders can play an important role in connecting economic growth to opportunity. This paper describes a study tour undertaken by representatives from four Federal Reserve Banks and more than two dozen place-based funders, under the auspices of The Funders’ Network Fed-Philanthropy Initiative. What began as an inquiry into four small legacy cities – Chattanooga, TN; Cedar Rapids, IA; Rochester, NY; and Grand Rapids, MI — that appeared to have experienced some measure of revitalization in the post Great Recession environment, evolved into an understanding that the places are moving along two distinct paths: an “arc of growth” and an “arc of opportunity.”  In the context of these small legacy cities, growth and opportunity unfold simultaneously along these two long-term and distinct “arcs” leading to the conclusion that broad community prosperity lies in (1) recognizing that growth alone does not naturally lead to opportunity and (2) advancing deliberate policies, investments, and programs that connect growth to opportunity.

Five takeaways

Given the common narratives emerging from the study tour and the dual arcs framework for evaluating place-based revitalization, participants in the tour put forward a short, non-exhaustive, list of conclusions for funders.

Patient capital builds local capacity.  The time horizons of community revitalization require capital that seeks both social impact and financial return over a longer-term. Place based funders are uniquely positioned to address the long time horizon that this work dictates, and the resources they control may be critical aspects in its acceleration or deceleration.

State policy often limits the flexibility and authority of local leaders to connect the arcs of growth and opportunity. Funders can take an active role in identifying those policy bottlenecks or opportunities that facilitate more positive local action toward connecting growth to opportunity. Place-based funders can be catalytic change agents for both policy and practice without engaging in lobbying.

Jurisdictional authorities dictate policy to connect the growth and opportunity arcs.  The levers of power and resource allocations accorded to any number of public or pseudo-public authorities have a significant, often negative impact on the efficacy of efforts to connect the dual arcs. Funders can take an active role in helping to identify and break down or circumnavigate local jurisdictional boundaries that prevent positive action and facilitate alignment toward common goals.

Effective marketing and communication advances positive momentum. Maintaining a steady cadence on the long-term mission of community revitalization often falls to place-based leaders. In most cases, the community foundation or another place-rooted funder had a role in funding or otherwise supporting the narrative of a community’s recovery, articulating a common, inclusive vision of what is possible.

Accountability for distribution of benefits from growth is the lynch pin for connecting the arcs. Cities around the country (including the four visited) have revitalized in various ways over the last several decades. But, benefits of that growth have left many behind. Place-based funders should be strategic in holding local stakeholders accountable for connecting the growth and opportunity arcs.


Helpful tools

Despite the challenges of connecting the arcs, multiple tools or approaches in which the local place-based foundation played a lead role as a funder, convener or ‘steward’ of the effort that may be valuable to other communities were noted. These tools were observed within a local context, and were often part of a broadly articulated plan or vision. While tools are helpful, the environment in which they are most likely to succeed is also important.

  • Addressing concentrated poverty by place: Interventions in this category were geographically targeted, but multi-faceted and cross-generational. Stressed communities that were located near resources – perhaps transportation or a good school – were seen as good places to start.
  • Addressing concentrated poverty through policy: Interventions in this category were explicit in channeling more gains from growth to opportunity, through local policy either by removing barriers or being prescriptive in the intentional distribution of benefits.
  • Revitalizing downtown with greater attention to preserving and increasing affordable housing: While investments in making communities more attractive by building downtown entertainment or “innovation” districts and increasing desirable amenities has increased property values and living costs, cities are facing the need for more affordable, family friendly housing options near emerging employment opportunities.
  • Business recruitment led by business retention: Community economic growth strategies focused on strengthening existing businesses by recruiting businesses in their supply chain, placing retention and success of existing business as a higher priority than traditional recruitment alone. Coordinated workforce development was often key to this strategy.
  • Develop leaders: Concern exists about where the next two generations of leaders will come from and how they will support broad-based collaborative efforts. Strong leaders in business, government and non-profits, are critical to building a regional approach to both arcs.
  • Data collection: Data has played an important role in many of the cities visited. Data should be publicly available and granular enough to support neighborhood level understanding as well as robust enough to present an aggregated, comprehensive city – or MSA-wide – profile.

While local dynamics dictate the timing, sequence, and particularities of the interplay between growth and opportunity strategies, this study concludes that revitalization efforts that recognize the dual arcs and plan for their meaningful integration are more likely to yield robust and lasting long-term results. Because place-based funders are so integrally linked to the history and prospects of the communities they serve, they have unique roles and responsibilities not only as funders, but as local institutions and innovators to make these linkages across place and time.

Alicia Kitsuse is Director of TFN’s Older Industrial Cities Program.

Jeremiah P. Boyle is Managing Director of Community and Economic Development for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

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Community Advisory Council (CAC) Nominations are Now Open

By Jason Keller

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors (the Board) announced on April 4, 2017, that it is accepting applications[1] from individuals who wish to be considered for membership on the Community Advisory Council (CAC). Community Development and Policies Studies (CDPS) – a division of the Economic Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago,[2] is working with the Board to source candidates for the CAC from the Seventh District, which consists of Iowa as well as portions of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Formed in 2015, the CAC advises the Board on issues affecting consumers and communities. The CAC serves as a mechanism to gather feedback and perspectives on a wide range of policy matters and emerging issues of interest to the Board and aligns with the Federal Reserve’s mission and current responsibilities. The CAC is made up of a diverse group of experts and representatives of consumer and community development organizations and interests, including affordable housing, community and workforce development, small business, and asset and wealth building.

The CAC meets semi-annually with members of the Board in Washington, DC, and consists of at least 15 members. Its purpose is to provide a range of perspectives on the economic circumstances and financial services needs of consumers and communities, with a focus on the concerns of low- and moderate-income individuals and areas. It complements two of the Board’s other advisory councils – the Federal Advisory Council[3] and the Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council[4] – whose members represent depository institutions.

The Board is interested in candidates with knowledge of fields such as affordable housing, community and economic development, labor and workforce development, financial technology, small business, and asset and wealth building, with a particular focus on the concerns of low- and moderate-income consumers and communities. Candidates do not have to be experts on all topics related to consumer financial services or community development, but they should possess some basic knowledge of these areas and related issues. In appointing members to the CAC, the Board will consider a number of factors, including diversity in terms of subject matter expertise, geographic representation, and the representation of women and minority groups. In this application cycle, the Board welcomes applications from all areas of expertise but is keenly interested in gaining perspectives on local labor and workforce development that could speak to opportunities and challenges of low-wage workers to complement the national and regional representation on the Council.

The Board will select four members in the fall of 2017 to replace current members whose terms will expire on December 31, 2017. The newly appointed members will serve three-year terms that will begin on January 1, 2018. If a member vacates the CAC before the end of the three-year term, a replacement member will be appointed to fill the unexpired term. CAC members must be willing and able to make the necessary time commitment to participate in organizational conference calls and prepare for and attend meetings two times per year (usually for two days). The meetings will be held at the Board’s offices in Washington, DC. The Board will provide a nominal honorarium and will reimburse CAC members only for their actual travel expenses (subject to Board policy).

Candidates may submit applications[5] by one of three options:

  • Online: www.federalreserve.gov/secure/CAC/Application
  • Email: CCA-CAC@frb.gov
  • Postal mail: If electronic submission is not feasible, submissions may be mailed to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Attn: Community Advisory Council, Mail Stop N-805, 20th Street and Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20551

Additional information about the selection process, including instructions for submitting an application, can be found in the Federal Register[6] notice.

For Further Information, Contact:

Jennifer Fernandez (for questions nationally)
Community Development Analyst
Federal Reserve Board of Governors

Jason Keller (for questions from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin)
Economic Development Director
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Federal Reserve Board of Governors
202) 452-2955

The Board will accept applications through 11:59 PM EDT on June 5, 2017.

[1] See https://www.federalreserve.gov/secure/cac/application.
[2] CDPS promotes fair access to credit and financial services and researches issues that impact low- and moderate-income communities.
[3] See https://www.federalreserve.gov/aboutthefed/fac.htm.
[4] See https://www.federalreserve.gov/aboutthefed/cdiac.htm.
[5] Required fields include: phone number; postal mail street address; postal mail city; postal zip code; organization; title; organization type; primary area of expertise; secondary area of expertise; resume; cover letter; and any additional information.
[6] See https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/04/04/2017-06021/solicitation-of-applications-for-membership-on-the-community-advisory-council.


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ABLE Accounts: Asset Development Tool for Disabled Individuals

By Marva Williams

Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) works to improve the socioeconomic prospects of low- and moderate-income (LMI) people by helping to facilitate the flow of credit and financial services to their communities. This is accomplished by monitoring credit conditions within communities, but also by noting the emergence of financial products and services with the potential to remove barriers to asset accumulation and financial stability for vulnerable populations[1]. Individuals with physical and mental handicaps are more likely to be unemployed and twice as likely to be poor, than someone without a disability. In addition to lower earning rates, the disabled have lower savings rates. According to a 2016 report from the National Disability Institute, 81 percent of people with disabilities did not have an emergency fund to cover three months of expenses, as compared to 54 percent of people without disabilities[2].

A new savings and investment tool, the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience or ABLE Act, for disabled individuals allows qualified people and their families to save for the future, while also protecting eligibility for public benefits. ABLE accounts are savings and investment accounts that can receive contributions from multiple sources, including the disabled individual who is the owner of the account. Total annual contributions may not exceed the current federal gift tax contribution, which is $14,000 in 2017, and total account balances may not exceed $250,000.

To qualify for an ABLE account, the account owner must have developed the disability before the age of 26 and must qualify for Social Security Administration benefits, or received a waiver from the IRS. States, which provide ABLE accounts, offer a wide range of investment options. Accounts can range from aggressive investments that promise higher returns to conservative investments that have an emphasis on capital preservation rather than growth. In addition, some states like Iowa and Illinois are offering checking accounts with a financial institution as a component of their ABLE products.

ABLE accounts offer several benefits:

Preferential federal tax benefits: In general, ABLE programs are exempt from federal taxation. Withdrawals are tax-free when used for qualified expenses and contributions to accounts are a deductible charitable expense.

Disability related expenses: Qualified expenses include rent, medical costs, and other living expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, medical and wellness services or products, financial management and legal services.

Federal program eligibility: ABLE assets will be disregarded or receive favorable treatment when determining eligibility for most federal means-tested benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid.

ABLE products are established at the discretion of the state treasurer in each state. Of the five states that are part of the region of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan currently offer ABLE Accounts. In fact, Iowa and Illinois are members of the National ABLE Alliance, a partnership of 15 additional states that offers ABLE accounts with multiple financial options. Indiana recently joined the partnership and will offer an ABLE product soon. Wisconsin does not offer an ABLE program although residents may open an account in another state if that state allows nonresident accounts.

ABLE account policies can be very complex. Up-to-date information on each state ABLE program in the Seventh District can be found at:

Seventh District State Able Program Name Website
Illinois Illinois Able https://savewithable.com/il/home.html
Indiana Forthcoming program N.A.
Iowa IAble IABLE.gov
Michigan MiAble miABLE.org
Wisconsin No current program N.A.


The author of this blog would like to thank the following for information on ABLE services, including Jill Crosser of Iowa Able;  Chasse Rehwinkel of the office of the Illinois State Treasurer; Chris Rodriguez, Senior Public Policy Advisor of the National Disability Institute; and Karen Austin and Adam Phillips of the office of the Iowa State Treasurer.


[1] See, for example, https://www.chicagofed.org/publications/profitwise-news-and-views/2016/universal-csas-in-illinois-addressing-the-racial-wealth-gap and https://www.chicagofed.org/publications/profitwise-news-and-views/2016/tax-time-savings-an-antidote-to-financial-insecurity both from ProfitWise News and Views, No. 3 2016.
[2] NDI Report Finds Adults with Disabilities Continue to be Economically Shortchanged Despite ADA’s Guarantee.  National Disability Institute.  July 22, 2016.  http://www.realeconomicimpact.org/newsletters/rei_news_08_14.html
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Workforce Development for the Next Generation: Early Childhood Education

By Emily Engel

Workforce development, long thought to be the purview of community colleges and other vocational programs increasingly extends into early childhood education and elementary school. In fact, many practitioners today believe that workforce development and early childhood education go hand in hand, with many of the skills that bode well for career success developed early in life[1]. Given that one aspect of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate is full employment, the Community Development and Policy Studies Department has highlighted workforce development as a priority in its 2015-2020 strategic plan.

In addition, the most recent Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference, “Strong Foundations: The Economic Futures of Kids and Communities,” explored the link between early childhood interventions and later in life outcomes. During the conference, three sets of concurrent paper sessions – “Early Childhood Development,” “Community Conditions,” and “Education and Workforce” – highlighted the latest research and thinking on the conference topic. Three plenary sessions – “Early Childhood Development and Return on Investment,” “Shaping Economic Futures: The Role of Communities,” and “Skill Development and Workforce Outcomes” convened prominent leaders and speakers. Links to papers and presentations are available on the symposium website.

One of the key themes of the conference is that children from disadvantaged situations face numerous obstacles throughout their lives, but one of the most important is the ability to be ready for kindergarten and early grade learning. Evidence exists that children who are not ready for school face significant struggles ‘catching up,’ and these struggles remain with them throughout their lives.

Chair Janet Yellen’s remarks highlighted the importance of the first five years in a child’s life: “A growing body of economic and education literature has focused on the relative efficiency of addressing workforce development challenges through investments in early childhood development and education compared with interventions later in life.”

The “Early Childhood Development and Return on Investment” panel, which featured leaders from philanthropy, academia, and practice highlighted the urgency of capturing early development opportunities. Aranthan “AJ” Jones II, Chief of staff at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, moderated the panel, “Early Childhood Development and Return on Investment” with Katherine Magnuson, Jack Shonkoff and Arthur Rolnick. Katherine Magnuson, Professor at the School of Social Work University of Wisconsin Madison, talked about how the key to becoming a productive worker is rooted in early childhood because the early years of a child’s life is when 700 synapses are formed per second. Building off of Magnuson’s presentation, Jack Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, stressed that learning from other industries like science, would help improve the impact of early childhood programs. He also highlighted that disadvantaged children need supportive caregivers and talked about how building adult capabilities will improve outcomes for children through a multi-generational approach. Arthur Rolnick, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the Humphrey School of Public Policy, concluded the panel by highlighting the return on inflation adjusted investment of 18 percent for the Perry Project. He explained that initiatives need to be scalable in order to help more disadvantaged children succeed, like the program in Minnesota, The Minnesota Model for Early Childhood Education[2].

Viewing Our Children as Emerging Leaders (VOCEL) is a local example of this approach. It works with very young children and their parents on Chicago’s west side including many of the factors mentioned in the panel. In VOCEL’s founding preschool classroom, 88 percent of the children lived in poverty, 66 percent of the children lived in single-parent households, and 66 percent of the children had parents who were unemployed or experienced significant job instability.

VOCEL endeavors to positively impact the low- and moderate-income communities on the west side of Chicago through education, using a combination of the following area of focus depending on the needs of the children and their families:

  • Early leadership skills;
  • Communication and language exposure;
  • Parents programming supported by social workers;
  • Home visiting and individualized support; and
  • Research, evaluation and continual growth.

Two key programs support children in this community: VOCEL Early Learning Center and VOCEL Child Parent Academy.

The VOCEL Early Learning Center currently serves 18 children and is expanding to 44 children in 2018 due to high demand. Enrolled children range in age from 6 weeks to 5 years. It is a full day, year-round program helping support low-income working families.  A new partnership with New Moms, will enable VOCEL to also work with young mothers and their children who are living in poverty or facing homelessness.

The VOCEL early learning center also works with the LENA Foundations, whose research, digital language processors and accompanying systems are used to measure early language environments and track children’s communication skills. The data shows the effectiveness of VOCEL’s innovative methods in comparison to preschool environments in LENA Foundation’s current data sample[3]. For example:

  • Children at VOCEL hear an average of 2,529 words per hour from the teachers and volunteers. (800 – 1100 is typical adult word count in day care / preschool environments in LENA Foundation’s current data sample)
  • Conversational turn count: Children at VOCEL have an average of 99 back-and-forth conversational turns per hour. (15-30 is typical conversational turn count in day care / preschool environments in LENA Foundation’s current data sample)
  • Child vocalization count: Children’s hourly vocalization count is 335 vocalizations (similar to words) per hour. (100-200 is typical conversational turn count in day care / preschool environments in LENA Foundation’s current data sample)

The VOCEL Child Parent Academy hosts parent-child classes that help both grow together. It is an intensive three month program for children from birth to three years old. This program incorporates learning and education throughout the program for both generations. One example is “brain bags” that circulate educational materials between the program and home. Another example is the simple text reminders that the parents receive multiple times a day reminding them of things they can do with their children every day to form positive habits. By building a strong, secure, attachment between parents and child, the child’s cognitive and language skills will start to grow exponentially at a young age.  Additionally, there are parent discussion groups and teacher-child classes, the first to transfer knowledge to parents about parenting practices that will help their child succeed and the later to help children separate from parents in a healthy way. These two occur simultaneously to reduce the amount of time the parent and child need to be at the academy, given the scheduling demands of working parents.

VOCEL also knows that creating a healthy, educated, and well-rounded child takes more than love, education and books.  It also takes a healthy community[4]. In 2015, VOCEL created a partnership with Good Sports to help their students gain the health benefits that sports offer.

VOCEL is just one example of an organization that is positively impacting the lives of children. With their work and the work of similar organizations, children will develop the skills to succeed in life.


[1] In 2014, the Chicago Fed highlighted early childhood education: “Workforce development” for the long run in a ProfitWise News and Views article
[2] Please see Art Rolnick’s TEDxTC, Economic Case for Early Childhood Development, since the paper will not be published until later this year.
[3] The LENA Natural Language Study, available at: http://lena.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/LTR-02-2_Natural_Language_Study.pdf
[4] To learn more about the Chicago Federal Reserve’s healthy communities initiative, please read the CDPS blog Organizations Focused on Children and Creating a Healthier Chicago
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