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Twenty Cities Building Community Wealth

Widely known as a high-tech hub, Austin, Texas is also one of the most segregated metropolises in the nation. In an effort to reduce income disparities and provide living wage jobs for the diverse residents of this newly majority-minority city, the city council allocated $60,000 out of the 2015 budget to support further development of Austin’s $7.7 billion dollar cooperative sector, which employs more than 2,500 individuals.

In 2014, the City launched the Recycling Economic Development Program, which includes plans to redevelop a 107-acre landfill site into the municipally owned Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub, which will support the development of locally owned business transforming recyclables materials to new products.

Austin was one of the first large municipal governments in the U.S. to power all of its city-owned facilities with renewables. Its general fund has received more than $500 million from the municipally owned Austin Energy over the last five years, which has helped finance parks, libraries, and emergency services.


Mayor Martin Walsh, elected in 2012, is helping to scale up the community wealth building strategies and institutions initiated before he took office. He is supporting the expansion of the Dudley Street community land trust as a strategy for building healthy and strong neighborhoods, and has appointed John Barros, former director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI),as his chief of economic development.

The land trust began in 1980, led by a strategic partnership in which the City granted the DSNI powers of eminent domain to acquire and consolidate vacant parcels. DSNI has grown to a 3,000-member strong force for grassroots redevelopment, and its community land trust today has created 225 permanently affordable homes.226 Helping to expand entrepreneurial capacity in the low-income Dudley Square community, the City has made a $25 million investment in the Roxbury Innovation Center, a nonprofit business incubator and co-working space.

The center is located in the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, which commemorates the former city councilor who helped to create the Boston Jobs for Boston Residents policy. That policy mandated that city residents receive half of jobs created by city funds—with 25 and 10 percent set-asides for minorities and women, respectively. In 2014, the City led the first youth participatory budgeting process.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Boston, Massachussetts.

In 2015, Burlington, Vermont became the first city in the nation to source all of its energy from renewables, thanks to its municipally owned Burlington Electric Department, established in 1905. Its tradition of local sustainability is embedded in institutions like the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO), which holds local ownership, equity, and opportunity for all city residents among its main goals. CEDO, established in 1983 under the leadership of then Mayor Bernie Sanders, provides technical assistance to local entrepreneurs and targeted assistance to employers paying living wages. It has operated the revolving loan fund, the Business Loan Program, since 1984.

The City provided a $200,000 seed grant and million dollar loans from the Burlington Employee Retirement Fund, negotiated a loan pool from a local bank, and organized volunteers to support the development of the Champlain Housing Trust (formerly known as the Burlington Community Land Trust) at its outset in 1984. In 1989, CEDO and its Executive Director Peter Clavelle successfully invoked the Public Trust Doctrine in a case before the Vermont Supreme Court, allowing the City to acquire derelict land owned by the Central Vermont Railway and to convert its formerly industrial waterfront into an accessible, multi-use esplanade.

In 2001, the City worked with the Champlain Housing Trust, now the nation’s largest land trust with more than 560 limited-equity homes and 2,000 apartments, to redevelop Brownfields into the waterfront’s first housing project. The development is the first LEED-certified multi-family property in Vermont. The City of Burlington has also helped to build long-lasting networks and institutionsin support of permanent affordability, such as the Burlington Housing Trust Fund, which supports the creation and retention of affordable housing through a dedicated portion of property taxes, approved by voters in 1989.


With a strong history of community organizing and development rooted in labor and anti-poverty activism, Chicago has developed a number of community wealth building strategies. The City helps build the capacity of small business through collaborative programs like the Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE), which both matches local businesses to anchor institution purchasing needs and links them with technical advisors from the community bank Next Street, to help them build the capacity to fulfill large contracts. CASE is currently housed at World Business Chicago (WBC), a public-private partnership between the City and the business community, chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Additional partnerships of WBC include Metro Chicago Exports, a regional collaborative between the City and seven nearby county governments that aims to increase exporting capacity of small and medium sized business.

There is also the Chicago Metro Metal Consortium, a broad-based partnership between several local governments, business associations, workforce agencies, universities, land banks, and other organizations that works to strengthen the region’s 3,700 metal manufacturing firms, which provide employment for one of six people in the region.

To further support small business development, the City provides expansion and remodeling grants to small business owners in Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts. The City has also provided $1 million to capitalize a $2 million revolving loan fund for the Chicago Microlending Institute (CMI), a new collaborative between the City of Chicago, Citibank, the local CDFI Accion-Chicago, and the Searle Funds at Chicago Community Trust. To date, CMI has distributed over $1 million dollars to 125 businesses—of which more than three quarters are minority owned—helping to create or preserve more than 100 jobs. As of 2006, Chicago became the first large city to establish a citywide community land trust. Lawrence Grisham, deputy commissioner of the department of housing and economic development, serves as the vice chair.

Once a former manufacturing center, the City of Cleveland has pushed forward to stabilize Northeast Ohio and has taken an asset-based approach to development, concentrating on the unique resources of its people, institutions, and geography. The City, in partnership with Cleveland’s university, hospital, and community foundation anchors, helped to create the Greater University Circle Initiative (GUCI), a place-based urban revitalization strategy aimed at economic inclusion, community engagement, physical development, and institutional partnerships. GUCI is aimed at improving a community divided between the great wealth of institutions on one hand and poverty-stricken, African-American communities on the other.

Under Mayor Frank Jackson, the City provided $77 million in loans, remediated 28 acres of brownfields, and aided GUCI in obtaining federal financing. These efforts helped to retain biotech entrepreneurs, bring new investment to the area, and redirect a portion of local anchors’ $3 billion purchasing power to local business. Mayor Jackson and Economic Development Director Tracey Nichols were instrumental in bringing to life the worker-owned Evergreen Cooperatives, a key component of GUCI’s buy local efforts. This new model of collaboration among the City and its hospitals, universities, and The Cleveland Foundation helped the City expand its Community Benefits Policy, which provides bid discounts to locally, minority, and women-owned business and requires local and minority hiring and subcontracting.

Between 2010 and 2014, the City increased contracting to these business groups from 29 to 39 percent of total contracting dollars. University Hospitals adopted similar standards and in 2013, nine leaders of business, civic, labor, and trade organizations signed a memorandum of understanding with the City to hire locally on construction projects and to support workforce development training programs. Maintaining the only industrial commercial land bank in the country, the City of Cleve- land has remediated more than 125 acres of brownfields, helping to return previously abandoned lands to productive use.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Cleveland, Ohio.

Led by The Denver Foundation and the Urban Land Conservancy, City leaders—including Mayor Michael Hancock and Economic Development Director Paul Washington—have begun to adopt community wealth building in a variety of ways. Last year the City’s Office of Economic Development made a Community Development Block Grant section 108 guaranteed loan of $1.2 million to the non-profit Re:Vision, to support land acquisition for a future food hub and neighborhood grocery store, in a neighborhood where average life expectancy is twelve years below the city average. The business will be the first food cooperative in the country that integrates low-income, urban food producers with value-added food processing and a retail food outlet.

Understanding that housing and transportation are the greatest costs to families, the City became an investor in the Denver Transit-Oriented Development Fund, joining the initial investor and sole borrower, the Urban Land Conservancy, to pioneer a new approach to transit-oriented development. The local nonprofit and land trust emphasizes permanent affordability and has bought eight properties around planned transit stops.

Denver has entered into several power purchasing agreements (PPA), in which the City buys photovoltaic services rather than the system itself, to deliver low-cost renewable energy with limited up-front capital. The Denver Housing Authority, for example, has installed solar arrays on public housing through a PPA that generates lease payments, and that includes an option to purchase the panels at a significant discount in six years.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Denver, Colorado.

Sharing not only their names and the banks of the Missouri River, but also a common workforce, Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri are moving toward a more cooperative regional economy. Both the Missouri and Kansas state legislatures have crafted bills to end job piracy, the longstanding practice of offering tax abatements to lure employers back and forth across state lines. Studies have documented that job piracy between the two cities has cost the Kansas City metropolis $217 million, approximately $340,000 for each “new” job. In part due to the efforts by Councilmember Kevin McManus of Kansas City, Missouri, chair of the Kansas City Regional Bipartisan Caucus, the two state legislatures are the closest they have ever been to placing a moratorium on intra-regional job piracy. In July 2014, the state of Missouri enacted its half of the first-ever binding two-state cease-fire agreement. Kansas has another year to enact similar legislation to cement the agreement. Meanwhile, Kansas City, Missouri is also emerging as a community wealth building leader for its efforts to expand use of renewable energy.

Following the development of the City’s Climate Protection Plan, Kansas City entered into power purchasing agreements (PPA) to install solar arrays on 59 municipal buildings. Since its beginning in 2012, the Land Bank of Kansas City has acquired almost 500 properties and has raised $434,095 through property sales.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Kansas City, Missouri.

Severe flooding has devastated the small inland city of Keene, New Hampshire, in recent years, a result that many residents attribute to climate change.

Starting in 2007, the City engaged well over 2,000 people—out of a population of 23,000—to develop its participatory Community Vision and Local Climate Action Resilient Community plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve resiliency.

The plan has now been incorporated into the city’s master plan. It not only addresses environmental and energy impacts, but also considers the economic impacts of climate change. It calls for the creation of an Economic Development Coordinator position, tasked with increasing the capacity of local businesses to adapt to climate change. For example, the plan includes support for a micro-business incubator to foster local agriculture and niche environmental services, as well as retraining for businesses that may lose demand in the face of climate change.

Appreciating that “worker-owned businesses are more likely to provide a living wage” and are “less likely to leave the community they are in,” seven-time Mayor Paul Soglin has supported cooperative development from his first term in the 1970s, during which he helped one of the city’s oldest cooperatives obtain public financing. In his current term, he proposed a commitment in the City’s capital allocation plan of $5 million over five years for worker-cooperative development, the largest allocation by a U.S. city. The Common Council will vote on the 2016 appropriation when it approves the City budget in November.

The City is looking to use some of that $5 million to develop a revolving loan fund, managed by a local CDFI or credit union, to provide capital for cooperative start-ups and conversions and is expected to set aside the remainder as technical assistance funds. The Common Council has passed several measures to support local entrepreneurs, including imposing limits on the size of big box retailers and deploying 1 to 5 percent price preferences for local businesses.

The City is also developing a public market, which will provide retail space, wholesale facilities, and commercial kitchens. In 2013, the City launched its Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative, aimed at promoting equity in City operations, policies, and budgets and the overall community. Since the initiative’s launch, the City has passed ban-the-box legislation, conducted a study on gender and racial disparities in City contract awards, and launched an internship program to increase representation of people of color employed by the City.

Minneapolis, which has long been a center of cooperative development, is seeing a new burst of cooperative activity. The City is working with local partners to explore opportunities to build off its Business Technical Assistance Program to develop a Cooperative Technical Assistance Program. Loan program staffers in the City’s Business Development office have already begun training on how to evaluate a cooperative cash’s flow and organizational health. Residents have likewise embraced cooperative development, as exemplified by the Eastside Food Cooperative, financed by neighborhood associations that pooled their grants from the City’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) to create a revolving loan fund.

Many of the members that formed the Eastside Food Cooperative went on to create the 200-member NorthEast Investment Co-op, in which individuals together invest in commercial real estate development. The cooperative has bought several blighted properties and established three new businesses in east Minneapolis. The City is building off its earlier green investments with the 2014 launch of the Green Deconstruction Pilot Project.Through partnerships with the social enterprise Better Futures Minnesota, the City will employ ex-offenders in deconstruction and salvage activities, help to establish local marketplaces for reusable materials, and collect data on the environmental, social and economic impacts of deconstruction compared to traditional demolition.

When Minneapolis and St. Paul built light rail, they worked through their regional planning agency to develop a $4 million revolving loan fund, the Ready for Rail program, which dispersed no-interest loans to small businesses affected by the construction; nearly two-thirds went to businesses owned by people of color. Minneapolis is the only city in the country offering business lending that is compliant with Islamic law, a critical source of support for Muslim entrepreneurs among the city’s large population of Somalis.

Mayor Mitchell Landrieu has become a community wealth building proponent, advancing “equity as a growth strategy” in the City’s five-year “Economic Opportunity Strategy.” The mayor is working with the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) to develop solutions to build an inclusive economy, attempting to reduce racial disparities in a city where only 48 percent of African American males are employed.268 Between 2010 and 2012, the City doubled its contracting with disadvantaged businesses.

In 2014, the City Council amended its Home Rule Charter to require that the City establish and maintain a program to encourage disadvantaged business enterprises to participate in City contracts. Continuing to broaden access to opportunity, the City invited The Democracy Collaborative to assess procurement practices and supply chain needs of New Orleans healthcare institutions and the capacity of small, local businesses to fulfill those needs.

The City aims to promote equitable growth post-Katrina through partnering and coordinating with CDFIs, on efforts like the $2 million Small Business Development Fund and the Crescent City Futures Funds, a revolving loan fund for a local community land trust.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of New Orleans, Louisiana.

New York City, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, has taken a national leadership role in using City support to develop worker cooperatives as a community wealth building strategy. In 2014, New York allocated $1.2 million to support worker-cooperative development, including targeted cooperative conversion assistance in the city’s industrial business zones and technical assistance through the City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS).

In 2015, the City Council increased funding to $2.1 million and passed legislation requiring the City to measure the number of City contracts awarded to worker cooperatives. The City uses Economically Targeted Investments (financial commitments made through city worker pension funds), to support the development and preservation of affordable housing, working in parallel with the many community groups also developing solutions for the problem of steadily climbing rent.

In 2013, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and the Kingsbridge National Ice Center Partners finalized a community benefits agreement (CBA), in which the developer promised local procurement, local hiring, and living wage jobs. Community organizing around this CBA led to the passing of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, which required developers receiving tax subsidies in excess of $1 million to pay living wages. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio increased the value of the living wage required of developers to its current $11.65 per hour with health benefits or $13.30 per hour without health benefits—likely reaching $15.22 per hour by 2019. New York City also hosts the largest participatory budgeting process in the country.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of New York, New York.

Recently elected Mayor Ras Baraka has shifted economic development dollars to support neighborhood-based development. Working to ensure that the city’s assets benefits its residents the mayor has announced plans to create the Office of Port Authority Operational Oversight and Lease Compliance Office, which will ensure that the City receives fair payment for use of the Port Newark Marine Terminal, as well as compensation for environmental remediation.

The Office would also position the City to enforce its first source local hiring ordinance, passed in 2000, which requires businesses contracting with the City to employ Newark residents in 40 percent of jobs. The City also requires that 51 percent of subcontracts go to minority- and women-owned businesses, and 30 percent to Newark-based businesses. In 2014, Mayor Baraka helped to reorganize the City’s economic development corporation, Newark Community Economic Development Corporation (Newark CEDC), to provide more direct economic development and entrepreneurial support to the distressed wards of the city. Newark CEDC has opened a small business resource center and assigned an economic development director and business development officer for each of the city’s five wards.

In 2015, under the leadership of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Baye Adofo-Wilson, the City launched the Live Newark program, which provides forgivable loans to municipal employees and public school teachers purchasing homes in neighborhoods targeted for revitalization.

Despite the fact that Oakland, California has one of the principal international ports in the U.S., the City emphasizes localism in its food and energy sourcing, contracting and procurement, and business development. Thanks to the efforts of Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, and a coalition of cooperative advocates, the City Council passed a resolution supporting the development and growth of worker cooperatives and the City’s Business Assistance Center’s efforts to provide support to worker cooperatives. The resolution is a symbolic step toward eventually introducing an ordinance that would create funding pools and preferential purchasing arrangements. Such an ordinance would build upon Oakland’s Local and Small Business Enterprise Program, which requires the City to meet minimum contracting and purchasing participation rates of local firms, emerging businesses, and businesses employing Oakland residents.

The Port of Oakland has set similar goals, with 61 percent of local hiring achieved in a recent major development. Since the City provided $50,000 in funding to create the Oakland Food Policy Council in 2006, it has made great strides to support its local food system, including amending its zoning code to reduce restrictions on backyard gardens and selling homegrown crops. 286 Through a pilot project with the school district and other institutional purchasers, the City is developing local food procurement guidelines and identifying local suppliers.

The City sources 2.3 percent of its energy from solar panels installed on municipal buildings. It’s also working with the County of Alameda to develop a regional Community Choice program, which aggregates consumer demand to create a viable market for renewable energy. The aim is not only reducing emissions but also generating living wage jobs, and promoting ownership of renewable energy assets by low- and moderate-income residents and communities of color. The City also supported the creation of the Oakland Community Land Trust in 2010, with an award of more than $5 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding, which helped the trust acquire its first properties.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Oakland, California.

Though Philadelphia has one of the highest poverty rates of America’s largest cities, it possesses great wealth. Philadelphia’s eds-and-meds anchors have a total combined annual budget of more than $14 billion and spend roughly $5.3 billion annually on goods and services. In 2014, City Controller Alan Butkovitz proposed the Anchor Procurement Initiative, publishing a study based on $3 billion of procurement data that identified opportunities for area anchors to localize more than half a billion dollars in annual spending.

The City is now working with Philadelphia’s anchor institutions, workforce developers, community development financial institutions, and business groups to create a permanent organization committed to expanding anchor institution local purchasing. In 2013, the City Council passed a bill to create a land bank, and signed into law the Land Bank Strategic Plan, developed in partnership with the Philly Land Bank Alliance. The plan identifies opportunistic vacant and tax delinquent properties, and establishes goals to return land and buildings back to productive use.

Under Mayor Michael Nutter, the City established the Office of Economic Opportunity, which has helped to increase participation of women, minority, and disabled-owned firms in city contracts by 37 percent between 2008 and The City further uses its purchasing power to stimulate inclusive economic development by requiring city contractors to develop Economic Opportunity Plans and in 2014, Mayor Nutter signed an executive order to extend the city’s living wage ordinance to subcontracted employees. The economic development agency provides low-cost loans to small and mid-sized businesses; nonprofits; and businesses owned by women, people of color, and the disabled. Philadelphia is one of a few cities in the nation that offers tax credits, up to $850,000 over ten years, to businesses that make grants to CDCs.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Having lost more than half its population since 1950, Pittsburgh experienced the decline that many rust-belt cities have seen. Yet through a rebirth strategy oriented toward high tech industries, today Pittsburgh is known as a turnaround city. When the city began to establish a high tech corridor in its downtown in the early 1980s, community-based groups—financed in part by a coalition of foundation, business, and government leaders—mobilized to assess the job creation potential of the proposed development. The City continues engaging community partners as the tech corridor develops.

The City is helping to connect historically black neighborhoods to opportunities within the knowledge-based economy, through its participation in the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone, in partnership with universities, businesses, and community organizations.

In 2011, the City passed responsible banking legislation, requiring the City to do business only with those financial institutions that make a commitment to community reinvestment. In 2014, the City established a city-wide land bank.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ranked the fifth best city for startups by Forbes magazine, Portland has initiated an effort to create an inclusive entrepreneurial environment, supportive of the region’s diverse talents. Under the leadership of Patrick Quinton, executive director of the Portland Development Commission (PDC) and its Deputy Director Kimberly Schneider Branam, the City launched its Neighborhood Economic Development Strategy, which uses a community-led approach to wealth creation and income growth. Through the strategy, the City has funded Startup PDX, an incubator that in 2014 focused on minority and women-owned business.

The City also launched a Microenterprise and Small Business Development Program, targeted at low- to median-income entrepreneurs. It helped Hacienda CDC establish the city’s first Latino public market and business incubator. In 2013 the PDC adopted an equity policy to support equitable outcomes from PDC investments, contracting, programs, and internal business practices.

The City combined environmental and workforce goals through the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s Clean Energy Works program, which has since become a standalone nonprofit. The nationally recognized program, has provided 584 low-interest loans for home energy retrofitting, as well as job training and employment for more than 400 workers.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Portland, Oregon.

In April 2014, Richmond became the first city in the nation to create a Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building, spurred by the leadership of Mayor Rev. Dwight C. Jones. The office is overseeing a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy, coordinating seven traditionally siloed policy areas, including transportation, workforce development, housing, and education.306 As part of its job creation and workforce development efforts, in 2015, the City retained The Democracy Collaborative to explore pathways to creating social enterprises linked to anchor procurement.

In fall 2015, the City launched RVA Future, an initiative aimed at connecting Richmond Public Schools graduates to college and career opportunities and eventually, scholarship support.

The City expects to begin construction on a 7.6 mile bus rapid transit line in August 2016, which would be the first stage in the development of a regional transit system to connect disadvantaged residents to job opportunities.

The city’s first female mayor, Mayor Lovely Warren, has led the city to adopt community wealth building strategies. She played a leadership role in launching the Market Driven Community Co-op Corporation, an effort to develop a network of cooperatives linked to anchor institution purchasing, similar to Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives. The initiative to date—with which The Democracy Collaborative is assisting—has gotten widespread backing from area anchor institutions and community groups.

In 2013, the City established a land bank, supported by $4.6 million in grants awarded by the New York State Office of the Attorney General, following the National Mortgage Settlement of 2012, which transferred $25 billion from large mortgage firms to local communities as recompense for abusive lending practices. The Rochester Land Bank Corporation has transferred more than 40 properties into public ownership.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Rochester, New York.

As one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, the City of Seattle is applying a range of community wealth building strategies to extend prosperity to all residents. The new Mayor Ed Murray signed legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making Seattle the first major city in the United States to do so. Through its Racial & Social Justice Initiative, established in 2004, the City has doubled its contracts with women- and minority-owned businesses in non-construction goods and services.

In 2014, Mayor Murray signed a new ordinance establishing a priority hire program to increase access to construction jobs and training programs for people of color, women, and residents living in economically distressed areas. The City supports locally owned businesses through a number of programs, such as its Manufacturing Incubator, the $8 million Grow Seattle Fund, the Local Food Action Initiative, and the zero interest Seattle Made Fund.

Taking advantage of the region’s robust and diverse agricultural assets, the City has launched a Farm to Table program, which links senior meal sites and Seattle child care programs to local area farms. The City also owns the Pike Place Market, a redeveloped historic property that hosts 220 small businesses, 250 artisans, and 80 farmers. The City has recently announced a partnership with a local land trust and is exploring opportunities to develop municipally owned broadband.

Read our Community Wealth City profile of Seattle, Washington.

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