Love it or hate it, one cannot deny the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the potential additional federal legislation to follow represent a generational opportunity to change the trajectory of city economies, improve the prospects for suffering citizens, and address long-festering economic and social disparities.
Opportunity is knocking at the door, yet most local governments are struggling to seize the moment. Challenges include a lack of organizational capacity, legal uncertainty, political complexity, and more. A resulting “go-slow” approach is sensible if used to identify goals, shape meaningful investments, engage stakeholders, and align funders. Unfortunately, too few places are proceeding with the necessary urgency and organizational rigor. But some leaders are thinking strategically and decisively, with plans to move beyond immediate recovery to advancing larger visions. Their actions may point the way for others.
This brief contains findings from over 30 interviews with local leaders and association professionals from September and October. These interviews point to seven actions to open the door to more competitive, resilient, and equitable economies. Some are obvious (but typically neglected) such as following a deliberate, intentional planning process. Others reflect more innovation (e.g., non-grant tools, incentives for collaboration) that can scale impact, attract additional funding, sustain the work beyond the ARP timelines, and tackle issues of inclusion head-on. Some actions should proceed immediately; others require thoughtful choices that reflect the needs and context of each community.