Local economy, local stimulus
As Congress considers another round of federal stimulus funding, some cities are taking a "do-it-yourself" approach to keep and create jobs in their jurisdictions. Despite tight budgets, cities are finding ways to offer incentives to businesses in their areas, and improve technology awareness and job training for residents.
San Jose, Calif., currently has a 12.5 unemployment rate. In response, the city is trying to improve its performance in serving local companies, an approach Mayor Chuck Reed calls "working at the speed of business." "If we can meet their schedule [for permitting and other city processes], then we have a pretty good chance of keeping the jobs here," Reed says. The city also offers incentives — such as reduced fees and taxes on applications for some building improvements — aimed at encouraging fast action.
Chicago's recently unveiled "Smart Communities" program, part of the City's Digital Excellence Initiative aimed at improving residents' understanding of and access to technology, also lays the foundation for future jobs by improving the technical savvy of the local workforce, according to Mayor Richard Daley. "Technology can enhance opportunity, improve knowledge and workforce skills, expand economic development, encourage innovation and boost Chicago's ability to compete in the global economy," Daley says.
Cities can stimulate their economies without spending extra by doing things that are not budget-related, such as streamlining their regulatory processes, says Christiana McFarland, program director for finance and economic development for the Washington-based National League of Cities. "I think this will be a trend that continues in the near future and for the longer term, as well," McFarland says. "It's provided the cities an opportunity to sort of go back and take a fresh look at their local economies."
Other local economic stimulus plans include:
Portland, Ore. — Portland's Job Creation and Business Stimulus Package invests $503 million in the local economy and is projected to create 4,985 jobs.
American Canyon, Calif. — The American Canyon Can Thrive Now plan includes a $3 million investment with local and regional banks that can commit to lending the money to local businesses and residents.
Flagstaff, Ariz. — Flagstaff's $35 million plan is predicted to generate about 300 new jobs and $13 million in new wages.
Source: The National League of Cities