Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of
Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine
Today, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of
Mayors in Orlando, Florida, I joined Erika Poethig, the
Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),
to launch the latest key components of the Obama
Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) initiative,
which was announced in July 2011 to help strengthen local
capacity and spark economic growth in local communities
while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and
The Commerce Department's Economic Development
Administration (EDA)-an SC2 Federal partner-announced the
$6 million Strong
Cities, Strong Communities Visioning Challenge to help
economically distressed cities leverage innovative
strategies to spur local economic and job growth.
The challenge will start with the competitive selection of
six cities, one in each of EDA's regions. Each of the
winners will receive up to $1 million to conduct their own
two-phase competitions. In the first phase, winning cities
will encourage teams of experts in such fields as
transportation planning, economic and community
development, business incubation, and engineering to submit
economic development proposals for their city or region.
The highest-rated proposals, as evaluated by a
city-appointed review panel, will receive cash awards. In
the second phase, the finalists from the first round will
compete for a cash prize by developing comprehensive
economic development plans.
HUD, another key SC2 partner, also announced $5 million to
fund the National Resource Network, a single portal for
short-term technical assistance on a variety of operational
and programmatic issues faced by our cities. It will give
municipalities access to a one-stop shop of national
experts in these areas.
The Obama administration has unveiled several initiatives
designed to speed up the growth of new, job-creating
companies and support regional economic development. The
two programs announced today are important steps to connect
government resources directly with local communities to
create jobs and improve the business climate.
I've had the good fortune of working with mayors from small
towns to big cities and everything in between. I know well
the vital role that our nation's cities play in creating an
economy built to last. Intergovernmental collaborations,
such as the White House SC2 initiative, will empower local
leaders to identify and leverage bottom-up strategies to
strengthen their local economic ecosystems.
Strategic, smart public investments that look to leverage
other capital, especially private capital, and smart
investments that are competitive-requiring a concrete
strategy and plan-and real buy-in in the community as an
essential prerequisite are the models of the future. The
Strong Cities, Strong Communities Visioning Challenge
provides the tools for cities to do this by generating
comprehensive and innovative economic development plans
that meet their specific needs.