Lessons for CED from Europe: Housing, Job, Food, or Fuel Poverty…All Roads Lead to a Social Inclusion Model

For the past five months I served as a visiting scholar to the University of Ghent in Belgium.   The link between food insecurity, a particular focus on my work in North Carolina, and larger overall economic insecurity issues has been getting increased focus across a number of European countries. Belgium is much smaller in geographic size, but has nearly the same population as North Carolina, and similar overall poverty rates.  It has Continue reading “Lessons for CED from Europe: Housing, Job, Food, or Fuel Poverty…All Roads Lead to a Social Inclusion Model”

What Barn Raising Looks Like in Petaluma, California

My last post argued that we should think of the role of local government in communities more in terms of “barn raising” than the more transactional metaphor of a vending machine. This idea was put forth in the great book Community and the Politics of Place by former Missoula, Montana mayor Daniel Kemmis, and later picked up in a popular article written by Frank Benest, former city manager of Palo Alto, California. The crux of the notion is the need for communities to move away from an “us” and “them” relationship between citizens and community organizations on the one hand, and local government on the other, and rather think of local government as a key community institution that is both part of and an extension of the community.

Continue reading “What Barn Raising Looks Like in Petaluma, California”

Lessons for CED from Europe: Inclusive Communities and a New City-Run Food Pantry

The photo was eerily familiar to anyone interested in CED.  The headline from the New York Times article on September 20, just days before the German national election, read, “Merkel Says Germans ‘Never Had It Better.’ But Many Feel Left Behind.”  The accompanying photo by Gordon Welters, shown here, features Continue reading “Lessons for CED from Europe: Inclusive Communities and a New City-Run Food Pantry”

One Neighborhood at a Time: The Incremental Development Alliance

In the Town of Riverdale, Betty Cooper is taking a walk through her neighborhood. She notices the dilapidated structures and blight that plague the area, and thinks to herself, “someone should do something about this.” Is Betty just a disgruntled citizen…or a developer in the making?

The Incremental Development Alliance (IDA) is a not-for-profit alliance of real estate development practitioners, private sector partners, and grassroots groups who train citizens like Betty to become small developers, helping to support neighborhood revitalization and assist city champions with coordinating development across the country. IDA began in 2015 as a collaboration between small developers John Anderson and Monte Anderson (no relation), who believe that small-scale, incremental development is a key approach to economic development. Continue reading “One Neighborhood at a Time: The Incremental Development Alliance”

Making the Case for Affordable Housing: Using BLS Statistics to ask Hard Questions About Salaries vs. Local Housing Costs

Last year, nursing assistants in Goldsboro earned $11.83 an hour (median wage) for a mean annual salary of $24,610.  Is this a sufficient wage to sustain a person who wants to live and work there?

Affordable housing for different demographic groups in North Carolina communities has been discussed in several prior blogs, including ones about affordable housing for teachers, seniors and those living in rural areas.  A different perspective is available with the use of easily-accessible, wonderfully-detailed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Continue reading “Making the Case for Affordable Housing: Using BLS Statistics to ask Hard Questions About Salaries vs. Local Housing Costs”

Local Governments and Non-Profits: Building Community Through Partnership

Photo by Crissy Pascual, Argus-Courier (Oct. 20, 2016)

NBC News recently aired a short feel-good story during its Nightly News broadcast about a code enforcement officer working for the City of Petaluma, California. Joe Garcia had received multiple complaints about a dilapidated home surrounded by overgrown weeds. Clearly the home was out of compliance, and so the natural course of action would be a warning and fine. But that’s not what happened. What happened instead is an example not only of decency and caring, but of the power within communities to build community and improve quality of life through partnerships. In this case, Joe learned about the homeowner, WWII vet Albert Pericou. He found out that Mr. Pericou lacked the resources and physical ability to keep up with his property. Joe realized that something could be done about it. He knew about a non-profit organization called Rebuilding Together and made a connection between Mr. Pericou and the organization. Before long, community volunteers, including Joe Garcia, with the help of a $10,000 donation by Home Depot, were giving Mr. Pericou’s home and yard a makeover.

Continue reading “Local Governments and Non-Profits: Building Community Through Partnership”

The Power of Partnership: The Case of the NC Commerce Park in Alamance County

NC Commerce Park
The Times-News, 3/22/2016

The N.C. Commerce Park in Alamance County, North Carolina is an economic development success story that underscores how vital interlocal and regional collaboration is for community and economic development. It highlights the power of partnership and also the importance of local leaders that share a collaborative mindset.

Continue reading “The Power of Partnership: The Case of the NC Commerce Park in Alamance County”

Understanding the Tools Available for CED Professionals: How Far Do NC Local Governments Go in Social Media Presence?

This past Friday, at the Southeastern Conference for Public Administration 2016 Annual Conference in Raleigh, second year UNC MPA graduate student Sabrina Willard accepted the Robert Klein Award for her paper on the presence of social media in North Carolina jurisdictions. The results of her paper raise significant questions about the adoption and use of social media in local government, including its ability to support or detract from community and economic development (CED) work. Willard’s paper, including the full dataset, is attached with permission.

imagesImage is obviously important for economic development efforts, and strong community engagement helps community development efforts. How does social media fit in? Lisa Baker called it “A Brave New World” in an article on social media for CED professionals in the Journal of Housing and Community Development in 2012. Baker argues social media is here to stay and CED professionals will need to figure out how to manage the new landscape. North Carolina seemed up to the challenge. In a 2010 report, Continue reading “Understanding the Tools Available for CED Professionals: How Far Do NC Local Governments Go in Social Media Presence?”

Mapping North Carolina’s Local Food Infrastructure

NC Local Food Infrastructure Inventory
NC Local Food Infrastructure Inventory

Strengthening local food economies can be viewed as an important part of a holistic approach to community development. Local food can be a positive contributor to social capital, public health, environmental preservation, and overall quality of life. It also can be an important component of local economic development. In thinking about the development of robust local food economies, a lot of attention is given to the poles of local food supply chains: namely, local farmers and farms on one end, and outlets for distribution on the other, such as farmer’s markets, co-ops, and CSA operations. But for many local farmers, too little attention is given to the intermediary steps in the supply-chain. The intermediary steps together constitute a critical infrastructure for local farmers that can make a huge difference in making a local food operation viable or not.

Continue reading “Mapping North Carolina’s Local Food Infrastructure”

Is Your Local Community Partner Ready To Go?

In July 2013, I wrote a blog proposing a four-part framework for understanding if specific local organizations have the capacity to implement CED programs. How well does this framework hold up when actually used?  We answer this question using interviews with 31 local partners, over the past two years around a single, federally-funded, locally-administered community program in North Carolina.  About half have given up on running the program. Continue reading “Is Your Local Community Partner Ready To Go?”

New Book of Interest: This is Where You Belong

9780525429128I am just finishing a pre-publication version of a forthcoming book by Melody Warnick titled “This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live” (available June 21, 2016). Warnick is a fellow-blogger on the Community Engagement Learning Exchange, writing about all things community from the perspective of a “regular” citizen (i.e. not an academic and not a public or nonprofit professional). Warnick is a freelance journalist and has been published in many prominent magazines, but This is Where You Belong is her first book. And it is excellent. I will be writing a proper review of the book soon, but for now I’d like to simply recommend the book and point out why folks interested in community and economic development might find this book useful and inspiring.

Continue reading “New Book of Interest: This is Where You Belong”

Community Food Strategies: Food System Network Building in NC

CFS_WebsiteAs I have written about before, I see local food organizing as a powerful community building enterprise. Because everyone eats, local food efforts literally can have an impact on entire communities. And because local food organizing touches upon all aspects of community capital (social, environmental, financial, and so on), focusing community development energies on local food seems like an effective strategy to achieve at least some broader community development goals. Perhaps no state in the U.S. has a better infrastructure for local food organizing than North Carolina. In this brief post, I’d like to draw attention to the supportive infrastructure that is helping make NC a national leader in local food efforts.

Continue reading “Community Food Strategies: Food System Network Building in NC”

Town-Gown Development Partnerships

3a8026bcbdcf26731b184d523cd71b12In implementing plans for neighborhood revitalization, municipalities look for partners whose investment can help lift the desire for revitalization from plan into action. In the past 20 years, one of those partners has increasingly become the local university. Local universities and colleges already have a substantial commitment to the place in which they reside. They are often one of the largest employers, and like all employers, need to competitively attract employees, and also students. They have compelling reasons to ensure that their home base can continue to bring the best and brightest to their institution. And as universities are more and more likely to have to compete for funding, particularly if they are public institutions, investment in their local community is a way for these institutions to stay relevant to taxpayers. Continue reading “Town-Gown Development Partnerships”

What is Your Strategic Vision?

horizonA familiar Biblical Proverb states: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I would argue that this principle is true for communities and organizations as well. Perish may be too strong a word, but I do think we could say something like, “when a community or organization has no vision, they are prone to stagnate, go nowhere, or decay.” Does your organization have a strategic vision? What about your community? Continue reading “What is Your Strategic Vision?”

Downtown Schools & CED

yourschools0611_007A recent post on the CED blog discussed the relationships that make up a downtown public school. The Downtown School in Winston-Salem, NC demonstrates a school as an opportunity to add a level of vibrancy to the downtown area by mutually benefitting the students, parents, and myriad other organizations (business partners, local small businesses, etc.) that are stakeholders in a downtown school. Communities may have more questions about what it could look like to place schools and educational needs at the center of downtown community and economic development.  This post gives a rundown of some resources that could be useful in that exploration.

One major Southern city that has explored downtown schools in recent years is Nashville, TN. In 2011, the Nashville Civic Design Center produced its findings regarding new schools in downtown Nashville. It touches on many of the opportunities that are presented by Winston-Salem’s downtown school — schools potentially attracting families to live in downtown, education as an element of urban sustainability, and schools playing into building a safer and healthier community. The report is certainly and reasonably Nashville-centric, but also presents a compelling examination of schools as assets for a downtown area. Continue reading “Downtown Schools & CED”

Economic Development via “White Hat” Hacking? 2015 Statewide Conference – CityCamp NC


The 2015 edition of CityCamp NC was held in Raleigh, June 11-13. It is the sixth year of bringing citizens, local and state government, and businesses together to improve the quality of life through information technology (IT) and the use of open, public data. Local elected officials from Cary, Raleigh and Wake County spoke, as well as IT start-up and established businesses, interested citizens and more. Some of the topics touched on community and economic development.

Continue reading “Economic Development via “White Hat” Hacking? 2015 Statewide Conference – CityCamp NC”

Civic Crowdfunding

Kansas City’s B-Cycle Program

Earlier posts on this blog have explored the idea of crowdfunding and its legal implications, growing popularity as a source of capital, and use in supporting local businesses. As these posts explained, crowdfunding is the concept of online fundraising from a pool of many different donors or investors. These online crowdfunding platforms, most notably Kickstarter, have emerged over the last several years and crowdfunding has capitalized on its viral nature and led to the successful funding of many different projects, ranging from business startups to theatrical performances.


In recent years, new platforms – Citizinvestor, ioby, and Neighbor.ly – have emerged with a specific focus on public goods -“civic crowdfunding”. These websites facilitate the funding of public projects, some of which are organized by local governments themselves and others organized by citizens and community organizations interested in bringing new services or facilities to an area. Crowdfunding may be a preferred method of fundraising when bond issuance may be too cost prohibitive or where there is a group of citizens willing to coordinate the fundraising effort. One of the largest civic crowdfunding campaigns is BikeShareKC’s Kansas City B-Cycle program, a campaign that used Neighbor.ly to raise nearly $420,000 to support a project providing 90 shareable bikes at 12 sharing stations around downtown Kansas City. Continue reading “Civic Crowdfunding”

A Look at the 2015 NC Civic Health Index

community-engagement-photo-150x150How healthy is civic life in North Carolina? Unlike testing blood pressure, or logging exercise time as measures of physical health, making a measure of civic connectedness and activity is tricky. The NCSU Institute for Emerging Issues took on this effort by producing the NC Civic Health Index, 2015. The report  identifies “broad lessons” based on comparing North Carolina’s civic health to national data. It highlights “trends and divides” for subgroups – especially youth and racial and ethnic minority groups — having lower measures than older, Caucasian NC residents, and concludes with a “Call to Action.”

Since the Index surveys the whole state Continue reading “A Look at the 2015 NC Civic Health Index”

The Heart of Collaborative Leadership

Water_HeartThe need for collaborative leaders in communities and regions has never been greater. Most, if not all, of the community development issues we grapple with are highly complex and “boundary crossing,” meaning they cut across organizational, jurisdictional, and sectoral boundaries.

Collaborative leaders are catalysts who bring stakeholders together to address shared issues. They are conveners and facilitators that lead more from the middle than from the front. Much has been written in recent years about the skill set of these post-hierarchical leaders. They are systems thinkers. They are effective facilitators and negotiators. They help resolve conflict.

But in my observation it isn’t the skill set that sets collaborative leaders apart. Rather, personal attributes, one’s “heart” if you will, is the real difference-maker when it comes to leading across boundaries as a catalyst, as a collaborative leader.

Continue reading “The Heart of Collaborative Leadership”

A Gathering of NC Food Councils

Gathering of NC Food CouncilsLast week (December 4-5) I attended a remarkable event, perhaps the first of it’s kind. It was a gathering of people involved in local food system work from all across North Carolina, as well as some representatives from South Carolina and Virginia. The title of the event was “Connecting for the Future: A Gathering of NC Food Councils.” About 150 people were in attendance at the Biotech Place in Winston-Salem. The event was convened by the Local Food Council of North Carolina in partnership with the Forsyth Community Food Consortium. Many sponsors helped cover the costs of the event, including the BlueCross BlueShield Foundation and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS). It was a great opportunity to hear about the ‘state of the art’ when it comes to local food networks/councils.

Continue reading “A Gathering of NC Food Councils”

Many Mini-Bonds in the Mile High City

Photo source: http://blog.boxyroom.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-crowdfunding/

$12 million in one hour: That’s not a report of the ticket sales for the Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s Greensboro show last week. That is how much the City of Denver raised directly from the citizens of Colorado for the final phase of its Better Denver capital campaign. This past August, the City of Denver offered general obligation bonds in $500 increments to Colorado residents, and they bought them right up! Approximately 1,000 Colorado residents purchased an average of 24 mini-bonds apiece. The City anticipated a five day sale. They were turning people away after one hour.

Continue reading “Many Mini-Bonds in the Mile High City”

University Roles in Economic Development

Universities can help promote economic development in a variety of ways. As Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter notes in an article, universities contribute to regional competitiveness by supporting key industry clusters. According to Porter, universities themselves are part of a growing and increasingly important “education and knowledge creation” cluster in the U.S. that creates a sizable economic impact. The substantial hiring and local purchasing of universities are major economic drivers. In addition, universities can invest in real estate projects that improve surrounding communities and, in some cases, they serve as “anchors” for local revitalization.  Continue reading “University Roles in Economic Development”

City of Greensboro’s SC2 Challenge: Using A Prize Competition for Economic Development

SC2StreetSignsIn September 2012, the City of Greensboro was awarded a $1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration to administer an “Economic Visioning Challenge,” as part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative. This post describes SC2, the “Challenge,” and Greensboro’s focus areas for economic development. Continue reading “City of Greensboro’s SC2 Challenge: Using A Prize Competition for Economic Development”

Community Food Councils: Questions and Answers

buy_fresh_buy_localOn April 17, 2014 a webinar was held by UNC School of Government, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and the NC Community Transformation Grant (CTG) on food councils. Community and regional food councils (sometimes called food policy councils) are rapidly emerging as important mechanisms to stimulate the kind of dialogue and concerted action necessary to improve local food systems.  In the last five years, food council activity in NC has grown to include more than 24 NC counties participating in or developing community-based food councils or networks. CFSA staff is part of the Community Food Strategies team, a CEFS initiative, that is leading food council support and development efforts across the state.

This post is the second in a series over the next several months that will be cross-posted to Sweet Potato, UNC School of Government Community and Economic Development Blog, the Community Food Strategies blog, and various CTG blogs around the state. Each post answers specific questions asked by webinar participants. This post was written by Jared Cates, CFSA Community Mobilizer.

Continue reading “Community Food Councils: Questions and Answers”

Can you manage the organizational culture of your local Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board?

Organizational CultureAn organizational culture will be established or will occur… be proactive.   

Elected leaders in Oceanboro promised voters that they would transform the way economic development services are delivered in the city—incentive policies, support for entrepreneurs, and new industrial sites—but they haven’t offered any specifics. The task of figuring out how to transform the City’s approach to economic development has been assigned to the newly appointed board of the Oceanboro Economic Development Corporation (OEDC), comprised of local business leaders, elected officials, and City staff. The Executive Director of OEDC has convened the board for its first meeting to begin wrestling with the issues, and she wants to make sure to set the right tone. As she prepares for the meeting, she recalls the management courses she attended while earning her MPA at the UNC School of Government, and in particular, the role of culture in organizations. The members of OEDC’s board come from organizations with very different cultures—each bringing a different set of assumptions and behaviors related to collaboration, communication, prioritizing strategies, and conflict resolution. Can she manage those different cultures, and how can she establish the right culture on the OEDC board to ensure that its work proceeds as smoothly as possible? Continue reading “Can you manage the organizational culture of your local Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board?”

Councils, Common Purpose, and Collaboration

Food SystemI read a terrific blog post at Harvard Business Review (HBR) the other day about collaboration. The author explained that “purpose is collaboration’s most unacknowledged determinant.” Community collaboration has never been more important as today’s challenges are too complex and interconnected for any one organization–government or otherwise–to handle alone. The issues we care about, more often than not, are enmeshed in complex systems that connect many disparate stakeholders. The ideal is to bring the different stakeholders–the different parts of the system, if you will–together, to work together, to collaborate, for the betterment of all. I’ve written several posts lately about local food economies as an example of this kind of complex system that requires collaboration in order to become more equitable, resilient, and sustainable. I’ve argued that local governments in particular should have local food system development on their radar screens. But collaboration amongst the relevant stakeholders doesn’t just happen. Collaboration is difficult. Councils for cross-cutting issues like food are a tool to help overcome barriers to collaboration. They can help create the common purpose needed to drive collaboration.

Continue reading “Councils, Common Purpose, and Collaboration”

What We Can Learn About Community Leadership from Sir Ernest Shackleton

One of the cases I have students read in the leadership class I teach is the story of the Endurance expedition to Antarctica, led by famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. This story has received a tremendous amount of attention in the last several years, with several books and documentaries, a four hour BBC film starring Kenneth Branagh, and most recently (last month), a three hour PBS documentary called “Chasing Shackleton.” The attention this story has received though was not about the success of the audacious mission to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. The ship never made it to shore. Rather, the story is an awe-inspiring saga of survival, and Shackleton’s efforts to make sure his entire crew made it home safely is frequently cited of one of the greatest examples of leadership ever. But while the Endurance expedition is an incredible epic, and Shackleton an inspiring hero, one might legitimately ask how such an extreme story—so out of time and place with our day-to-day experience—can offer lessons for leadership today. I actually think we can learn a lot about leadership in general and community leadership specifically from the Shackleton story if we think about the crisis the Endurance crew faced as a metaphor for community crises today. This post explores a few of the lessons we might learn from this amazing story. Continue reading “What We Can Learn About Community Leadership from Sir Ernest Shackleton”

Neighborhood Resistance to Redevelopment: A Case from Memphis, TN

The City of Memphis, Tennessee was an early adopter and frequent user of HOPE VI funds to demolish traditional public housing and redevelop mixed-income sites. Over the past 15 years, the Memphis Housing Authority (MHA) has received more than $155 million Federal dollars to demolish five public housing complexes that had housed over 1,200 residents, only one fifth of whom returned to rebuilt housing. In 2009, MHA announced that it was preparing to demolish and redevelop the city’s last remaining traditional public housing complex, Foote Homes, and its sister site, Cleaborn Homes, together comprising 497 housing units (1).

On paper, it looked like the redevelopment of Foote Homes and its surrounding neighborhood, Vance Avenue, was a foregone conclusion. MHA won a Choice Neighborhoods grant of a quarter million dollars to redevelop Foote Homes, and the broader Vance Avenue area was slated to be redeveloped into a tourist destination called Triangle Noir, with infrastructure, commercial, and housing upgrades funded by a $102 million TIF (2). But MHA may have jumped the gun with its grand plans for the area’s redevelopment.

Continue reading “Neighborhood Resistance to Redevelopment: A Case from Memphis, TN”

Local Foods as Community Development, Some Questions and Answers

tenpercentEarlier in this Fall I reported on a webinar co-sponsored by the UNC School of Government and the Center for Environmental Farming System (CEFS) on local food and local government. The purpose of the webinar was to educate local government officials about how the local food movement can be an important part of a community and regional community development strategy. Sustainable local food systems contribute significantly to a community’s economic, environmental,  social, and public health. A lot of information was covered in the webinar and a lot of questions were posed by viewers, and there was not enough time to address all the questions. In this post I’d like to take up a few of the questions, and with the help of my colleagues from CEFS, provide some answers.

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An environmental finance option that will take your breath away

I spent part of this past October weekend among a huge crowd of families enjoying a wonderful combination of North Carolina fall weather, fun, food, entertainment, educational activities, and adventure activities.  Must have been the NC State Fair, right? Actually while the description may hold, the festival I’m referring to was 20 miles down the road in my town of Durham and was the Bull City Race Fest.  This race attracted over 6,000 runners, their families, and their friends from throughout the region and beyond into Downtown Durham to participate in an assortment of running races.

Bringing runners downtown
Bringing runners downtown

Continue reading “An environmental finance option that will take your breath away”

Highlights from IEDC Annual Conference 2013

On October 6-9, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) held its annual conference in the ‘City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This year’s conference theme was Transformation, Innovation, Reinvention: Creating Tomorrow’s Economy Today.  Several of the concurrent sessions offered unique resources and perspectives on the field. A few interesting points from select sessions are highlighted below: Continue reading “Highlights from IEDC Annual Conference 2013”

USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program

usda-logoIn the Town of Elk Park, a rural mountainous community of 453 residents in western North Carolina, the Town Hall currently operates out of an 80-year-old single-family house. Numerous attempts to update the facility have left the building in a state of non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements, in addition to several other structural emergencies. In need of desperate attention, the USDA Rural Development office provided a loan and grant to help finance a new Town Hall.
In addition, Rural Development staff provided assistance in designing the new facility. Once completed, the town’s administrative employees, public works employees, and the police department will all work in the new facility. The building, which will meet ADA guidelines, will provide office and meeting space, a parking lot, and public restrooms.

Continue reading “USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program”

Why Local Governments Should be Thinking About Local Food Systems

buy_fresh_buy_localLast month I hosted a webinar here at the School of Government, in partnership with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (or CEFS for short),  on the topic of local foods and local government. I was fortunate enough to have with me a who’s who of local foods experts to talk about different aspects of the local foods movement as a way of introducing the topic to local government officials, and perhaps more importantly, serve as a springboard for local conversations between local officials and local food system stakeholders as to how local government can be a catalyst in growing and nurturing vibrant local/regional food systems.

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Historic School Redevelopment (Durham, NC)

maureen joyYesterday, Sept 4th, community leaders, elected officials, school administrators and a team from Self-Help gathered in NE Central Durham to celebrate the opening of a revitalized historic asset. The historic YE Smith School, a 54,000 square foot building originally constructed in 1910, is the new home to the Maureen Joy Charter School. The project involved a $10 million investment in a building that sat vacant for 40 years, located in a community and neighborhood with above average crime, poverty and economic distress (map here). After 3+ years of work, the final result is the relocation of a successful public charter school into a modern, technically sophisticated and architecturally stunning building. How was such a project possible? What finance tools were used? Who were the funding partners? What are some key ingredients to transformative redevelopment projects? Continue reading “Historic School Redevelopment (Durham, NC)”

Book Recommendation on Civic Leadership

A new book by David Chrislip and Ed O’Malley titled For the Common Good is a highly recommended source of ideas on how civic leadership can facilitate meaningful change in our communities. The title captures how the authors argue we should redefine civic leadership. Rather than being motivated by personal interests (such as “not in my backyard” concerns), civic leadership that is focused on proactively effecting change for the good of the whole community can “help transform the civic culture of our communities and regions.”

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Food Trucks, Local Regulation, and Community Economic Development

food truckWith the growing popularity of food trucks, cities and towns across North Carolina are considering strategies to regulate the increasing number of mobile vendors selling meals while also recognizing the value of food trucks in terms of community & economic development. A food truck is a mobile, miniature commercial kitchen that must meet the state sanitation requirements of a brick-and-mortar restaurant and any other local ordinances.

Historically, street vending has been a fixture of urban life, providing economic opportunities for entrepreneurs with limited access to capital. The combination of low start-up costs, the ability to prepare food while mobile, and the utilization of social media has contributed to the current food truck phenomenon. The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit advocate for civil liberties, has published a detailed report entitled “Food Truck Freedom: How to Build Better Food Truck Laws in Your City.” The report estimates the cost to start a food truck is between $25,000 and $30,000, significantly less than the estimated $750,000 needed to launch a restaurant. By taking advantage of the relatively low start-up costs, food trucks are able to sell inexpensive, diverse, and increasingly innovative foods to customers. Continue reading “Food Trucks, Local Regulation, and Community Economic Development”

Preparing for the Silver Tsunami: Participatory Planning for Aging in Orange County, NC

The United States is turning gray, and that isn’t a reference to the wet weather we have seen lately. The number of older adults aged 65 and older is expected to double by the year 2050 to an estimated 88.5 million seniors. North Carolina is no exception, especially given that our state has become an increasingly desirable retirement destination. Census data shows that North Carolina ranks among the top ten states with regard to growth in the Baby Boomer cohort – the state experienced a 35% increase in the number of adults over the age of 65 from 2000 to 2010.

All of North Carolina’s 100 counties have at least one senior center, and these senior centers are often closely associated with a county department on aging that provides programming, services, and information to local seniors. The Orange County Department on Aging (OCDOA), with two senior centers in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, is one such agency. The OCDOA coordinates a system of integrated aging services throughout the county, including congregate meals, exercise classes, caregiver support, falls prevention outreach, among many other essential services. But this programming isn’t limited to within the confines of its senior centers – the OCDOA has long been a forward thinking and innovative organization that looks for ways to enhance the quality of life for seniors, as well as ways that seniors can contribute to a better quality of life in Orange County. Continue reading “Preparing for the Silver Tsunami: Participatory Planning for Aging in Orange County, NC”

Master Development Agreements: Evaluate Contingencies

blog2Five years ago, excitement was building over the prospect of a new downtown vision. Local officials had just signed a long-term development agreement with an experienced master developer known for successful downtown redevelopment projects. The town and the developer worked hard to create a downtown “vision plan” that would revitalize a large portion of the downtown area. The large tract of land along Main St had been underutilized for years and was holding back potential downtown growth. Furthermore, the location was a gateway to the town, overlooking a beautiful river.

Visions of King St in Charleston, Front St in Wilmington and other Southern historic riverfront cities were being discussed in anticipation of the new, riverfront, town center. The town’s recent surge in population would be a positive contributor to the mixed-use plans for the residential, commercial, retail and dining proposed. No longer would the town be viewed as simply a service hub for neighboring beach communities. Town officials were eager to begin work on the ambitious, 20-year vision that would finally put their location on the map.

Today, the downtown vision remains stalled and the designated redevelopment area sits idle due to legal problems encumbered by the developer and concern on the part of the town that the county might veto the developer’s proposal for tax increment financing. Continue reading “Master Development Agreements: Evaluate Contingencies”

Community Development and a Sense of Place

Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry

The work of community development is very much tied to place. Even though today we speak of virtual communities or communities of practice that are disconnected from place, when we speak of community development we are talking about developing the capacity of local communities–neighborhoods, towns, regions. Wendell Berry is one of America’s preeminent thinkers and writers on sustainable communities and the importance of having a sense of place in particular. Berry has said “if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”

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Try using “yes, and” in your next economic development strategy session

yes andYou are meeting with members of your economic development board and trying to make decisions about infrastructure investment to promote growth. One member wants to focus the discussion on the need to construct a new shell building, while another member wants to talk about water and sewer infrastructure. The proponent of constructing a shell building just finishes her point about the need to have space available for new companies, when the water and sewer proponent cuts in. “Yes, but….” Immediately the shell building proponent knows that the water and sewer proponent is trying to take the conversation in a different direction and likely feels she is not being heard.  On the other hand, if the water and sewer proponent had said, “Yes, I hear your point about the need to have space available for new companies, and I am hoping we can also find a way to think about to explore expanding the water and sewer infrastructure,” there is a greater chance to build a mutual and productive conversation. This latter approach provides the start to creatively finding new strategies together that the “yes, but…” does not allow for. Continue reading “Try using “yes, and” in your next economic development strategy session”

Measuring quality of life or “livability” within a community

Green InfrastructureWhat draws and retains residents to a specific community?  Are there characteristics that make a local jurisdiction a particularly livable place, and can this concept be measured?  As many local jurisdictions seek strategies to encourage economic development, some are giving equal attention to the concept of livability to ensure the benefits of their communities are preserved or flourish as a result of such efforts.   While there are limitations and challenges to measuring livability or quality of life, jurisdictions in the United States and abroad have embarked on efforts to capture and measure it through comprehensive indices.  Such a comprehensive index attempts to measure the tangible and intangible variables of quality of life through a collection of indicators organized around topical areas (e.g., health, education, transportation), possibly producing a composite score.

Historically, measuring society’s position and progress has focused on economic indicators.  In fact, The Consumer Price Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average are two such examples of commonly-used indices.  However, such economic measures provide a very narrow view of well-being, neglecting to evaluate other important aspects of life.  Additionally, while national indexes are useful, they may not translate to the local level.   As such, interest in developing and applying indices for the local level have grown as community leaders look for measures that reflect the daily experiences of its residents, as well as approaches to guide projects and policy decisions. Continue reading “Measuring quality of life or “livability” within a community”

Local Food Policy Councils as Community Development Strategy

Sustainable Local Food System
Source: www.cmap.illinois.gov

One might say that the local foods movement or “locavorism” is all the rage. We’ve done several posts here on the CED Blog about local food systems as they relate to community economic development. I posted a while ago about the local foods movement as community economic development. Sybil Tate wrote a post about efforts in Cabarrus County to promote local food. And Maureen Berner discussed the new Western North Carolina Food Policy Council as a way to develop “synergy and connections” regionally around sustainable local food systems. This post explores local food policy councils in a bit more detail and points to resources on the topic. These forums for discussion and collaboration may be the single most important step that can be taken by local governments (or other sponsoring entities) to really make progress in developing a sustainable local (or regional) food system.

Continue reading “Local Food Policy Councils as Community Development Strategy”

Breweries and economic development: A case of home brew

maar_top_root_beers_vSomething is brewing in small towns throughout North Carolina. Far outside the city limits of Beer City U.S.A. (also known to North Carolinians as Asheville), craft breweries are opening up in and around distressed downtowns throughout the state. Part industrial facility, part retail space, part bar/restaurant, and part real estate pioneer, craft breweries are emerging as innovative harbingers of neighborhood revitalization. Its leaders tend to break the traditional entrepreneurial mold, measuring their success not only according to profit margins but by the improvements in quality of life and neighborhood vitality that tend to follow in their wake.

The case of Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, a small town (population 21,667) in rural eastern North Carolina, exemplifies this pattern. At one time a thriving community with a prosperous economy based on tobacco and textile manufacturing, Kinston’s downtown had seen better days as it entered the twenty-first century. The tobacco and manufacturing heyday had come and gone and the once lively downtown storefronts were mostly vacant. Those looking for some semblance of a night life had better head out of town. Fast forward to 2013 and Kinston’s downtown now shows some burgeoning signs of life –lunch spots are packed by noon, folks head in and out of the shops on Herritage Street, and public art in the form of benches and bicycle racks dot the wide sidewalks. And once five o’clock hits, patrons from all over Kinston (and elsewhere) pour into Mother Earth, for locally crafted beer, fellowship, and on some nights, live music. Continue reading “Breweries and economic development: A case of home brew”

Do You Hear What New Elected Officials Are Saying about Economic Development?

Colleagues Working TogetherThis time of year, I travel across North Carolina orienting newly elected city and county officials. I routinely ask why they ran for office and hear how they want to strengthen the economy or attract good jobs. New to a city council or board of commissioners, these elected officials are eager to act on their campaign promises but often have gaps in their understanding of how local government fits into a larger economic picture.

When talking about economic development, newly elected city and county officials describe what they promised to do during their campaigns, what they think local governments should do, and what they think is affecting economic development in their communities. Professional economic development staff could help local elected officials by initiating conversations to expand and deepen the local elected officials’ understanding of economic development. Following are examples of what local elected officials are saying and questions Continue reading “Do You Hear What New Elected Officials Are Saying about Economic Development?”