American cities are under pressure to deliver on a whole host of national priorities, including addressing the nation’s weak productivity growth, stagnant wages, and stark racial disparities. That’s because both the White House and Congress have made clear that building an inclusive economy is not a top priority.
Health care and other supports for low-income, working families are on the chopping block. A robust federal economic growth agenda is missing. And the Trump administration’s budget blueprint and policies indicate that state and local governments, along with the private sector, are expected to step up their investments in key domestic policy areas including infrastructure, basic and applied research, job training, and housing assistance.
As public and private sector leaders in metro areas set out to build more productive, inclusive economies, they should address the structural barriers, past and future, that prevent many people, places, and businesses from participating fully in the economy.
At one level, this means that cities and metro areas must reverse the housing, land use, and infrastructure policies that have privileged white homeowners over black and brown Americans. The mayors of Detroit and New Orleans have been in the headlines recently as they lead this charge locally.
How can cities and regions restore inclusiveness to their economies? Here are three approaches (based in part on the 3Re Strategy):
- Repurpose workers for more-relevant skills. New York City‘s Ladders for Leaders program is an example;
- Reconnect workers to opportunities by renewing links and transit options that were lost during the now-fading Age of the Automobile. Removing inappropriate infrastructure that isolated–like badly-planned urban highways–is often a major part of this reconnecting process;
- Help local entrepreneurs launch, scale, and innovate new and existing businesses to restore economic vibrance and productivity. FirstBuild in Louisville, Kentucky is an example.