New report finds millions of Americans stuck in perpetual financial insecurity, a situation that is particularly dire for families of color as state and federal policies provide little relief, according to “2016 assets & opportunity scorecard”
Despite the nation’s on-going economic recovery, millions of low- and moderate-income Americans are perpetually forced to push an outsized boulder up a steep hill with little prospect of reaching stable financial ground, according to new research by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).
CFED’s 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard concludes that today’s economic status quo offers little hope to these struggling families. Without sufficient income to cover basic needs such as housing, it becomes next to impossible to build up even a small amount of savings for unforeseen expenses or to plan for a more prosperous future.
The outlook is particularly dire for individuals and families of color, who are 2.1 times more likely to live below the federal poverty level and 1.7 times more likely to lack liquid savings. African American and Latino consumers also are significantly more likely to have subprime credit scores.
In October-December 2015, 37 grants totaling $10.37 million were approved by the Surdna Foundation staff and board to further the foundation’s mission of fostering sustainable communities in the United States – communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.
Strong Local Economies
Center for American Progress, Washington, DC - $50,000
To advance national messaging on improving labor standards for low-wage workers in order to advance policy solutions that reduce poverty, mitigate inequality and build stronger local economies. (1 year)
Fourth Sector Network, Raleigh, NC - $47,000
To support the planning process necessary to develop and launch a “Forth Sector” institute and continue to build out an ecosystem for this alternative business form. (1 year)
Living Cities, New York, NY - $2,000,000
For the Living Cities Blended Capital Fund
Ms. Foundation for Women, Brooklyn, NY - $200,000
To connect a national Women’s Economic Agenda (WEA), as well as support formation of WEAs in three states across the South, including continued work in Mississippi; increase access to quality jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for women; and explore gender equity-based impact investing to advance women’s economic justice and security. (2 years)
National Black Worker Center Project, Oakland, CA - $190,000
To help the National Black Worker Center Project plan its work in two areas: 1) a national campaign to change the narrative concerning the causes and solutions of the Black job crisis; and 2) the expansion of the network from its current set of three affiliates to ten affiliates by the end of 2017. (2 years)
National League of Cities Institute, Inc., Washington, DC - $700,000
To host the Equitable Economic Fellowship with PolicyLink and the Urban Land Institute. (2 years)
New Orleans Startup Fund, New Orleans, LA - $45,000
To support PowerMoves@Miami launch at Black Tech Week in Miami. (1 year)
Vernon Avenue Project, Inc., Brooklyn, NY - $60,000
To strengthen the principal tool used to reconnect young people - job creation. The grant will be used to help subsidize developing businesses and salaries of youth and capacity building of the business with professional assistance. (1 year)
Wisconsin Jobs Now Organizing Foundation, Milwaukee, WI - $10,000
To 1) explore future investment opportunities for the Strong Local Economies program in Milwaukee; and 2) support WJN’s executive leadership and direction, as she emerges as a prominent voice in the national fight for job quality. (1 year)
Center for Social Inclusion, New York, NY - $400,000
To provide general operating support for CSI to build its capacity and regional presence. (2 years)
Eastern Market Corporation, Detroit, MI - $350,000
To support Eastern Market Corporation in deepening its impact as a food hub in the Midwest by providing economic development services to the Detroit community. A portion of this grant will be redistributed to support capacity building for EMC’s community partner, Food Lab Detroit. (2 years)
Energy Programs Consortium, Washington, DC - $100,000
General operating support for the further development of the Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans program in order to bring the project to self-sufficiency. (1 year)
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Los Angeles, CA - $750,000
To expand the Jobs to Move America (JMA) policy into new regions, strengthen it where it has been used, support building the federal infrastructure that supports the policy, and grow the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s national communications program to support the JMA agenda. (3 years)
Partnership for Southern Equity, Atlanta, GA - $100,000
To support Partnership for Southern Equity to provide capacity building to local and regional government agencies to develop and apply an equity analysis to investment decisions. (2 years)
Pittsburgh United, Pittsburgh, PA - $250,000
To continue supporting green infrastructure education, advocacy and engagement efforts to maximize environmental, social and economic benefits, especially for underrepresented communities. (2 years)
Public Advocates, San Francisco, CA - $450,000
To engage local and regional social justice advocates in California to shape and advance state policies that will align equity outcomes with investment in the built environment and infrastructure developments. (3 years)
STAR Communities, Washington, DC - $175,000
To support STAR Communities’ efforts to strategically increase U.S. cities participation in and application of the rating system; and develop new standards and tools to improve access to data collection. (1.5 years)
Transportation Choices Coalition, Seattle, WA - $525,000
To continue to support a statewide coalition in Washington to integrate equity and project performance metrics into transportation infrastructure decisions. (3 years)
Winrock International, Little Rock, AR - $375,000
To support the Wallace Center’s expansion of the National Good Food Network and build upon it through the development of a regional food economies working group, fellows program and strategic communications that expands the national dialogue to emphasize economic impact. (2 years)
Alternate ROOTS, Atlanta, GA - $300,000
For general operating support to enable ROOTS to offer artists direct support through its Artistic Assistance programs; host its annual ROOTS Week meeting and artists’ retreat for almost 250 artists; and host a series of regional gatherings, mini-retreats with workshops, performances and learning exchanges. (3 years)
Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia, PA - $225,000
Support for its public programming that provides an inclusive gathering place for open conversation, and a platform for action and community change, as well as their civic initiatives such as the Social Practice Lab artists-in-residence and the Pearl Street Project. (3 years)
Center for Cultural Innovation, Los Angeles, CA - $100,000
To support field engagement and dissemination activities related to Expanding Investments in Creatives, a 12-month study of contemporary support systems and the creative ecosystem for American artists. (1 year)
Center for Urban Pedagogy, Brooklyn, NY - $225,000
To support CUP’s core mission of collaborating on projects that demystify the urban policy issues that impact our communities, so that more individuals can participate in shaping them; and will allow CUP to create new partnerships outside NYC to reach new audiences and increase impact. (3 years)
Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Baltimore, MD - $50,000
For the incubation of the Urban Arts Leadership Program (UALP), a GBCA initiative to increase the diversity of the regional cultural workforce. The program offers aspiring administrators of color a pipeline for professional development, networking opportunities, and paid fellowship placements.
Hester Street Collaborative, New York, NY - $375,000
To support the ongoing growth and development of Hester Street Collaborative as a planning, design and development technical assistance and capacity building provider in New York City and nationwide. (3 years)
Local Initiatives Support Corporation New York City, New York, NY - $190,000
To develop, synthesize, publish and disseminate knowledge about arts-based community development strategies and results in low-income communities, drawing on the experience of LISC’s Creative Placemaking Initiative. (2 years)
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York, NY - $90,000
To conduct activities that will help LMCC document, evaluate, and share the Arts East River Waterfront initiative with artists, partners, and other key stakeholders involved in building equitable and vibrant communities. (1 year)
Marwen Foundation, Chicago, IL - $200,000
To support Marwen Lab, a year-long program which offers 30 students intensive training in each participant’s chosen discipline, as well as regular studio critiques, artist statement workshops and college counseling. (3 years)
National Organization of Minority Architects Charitable and Education Foundation, New Orleans, LA - $20,000
To support the Design as Protest workshop at the 2015 NOMA Conference. (1 year)
New York Foundation, New York, NY - $450,000
To fund Neighborhoods First Fund to support community engaged planning with grants to community-based organizations and resource allies working in neighborhoods targeted for rezoning or major development by Housing New York. (3 years)
Pangea World Theater, Minneapolis, MN - $225,000
To support three of Pangea World Theater’s signature programs: 1) National Institute of Directing and Ensemble Creation, 2) Race, North and South on the Mississippi, and 3) Lake Street Arts!. (3 years)
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, New York, NY - $100,000
To support the planning and development of USArtPartners, a new national collaboration between artists and other partners interested in social change. USArtPartners will make introductions, nurture connections, align systems, and curate a focused portfolio of five projects. (1 year)
Southwest Folklife Alliance, Tucson, AZ - $150,000
Funds are requested to strengthen the organizational capacity of Southwest Folklife Alliance to implement a strategic vision for scalable projects that support tradition bearers and build models of civic engagement cemented in heritage practices. (3 years)
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, Porcupine, SD - $300,000
To support the planning and design for second phase of the Thunder Valley CDC Regenerative Community Development. Community input with a particular focus on the engagement of local artists will inform how the spaces are designed and programmed. (3 years)
University of Detroit Mercy Detroit Collaborative Design Center, Detroit, MI - $225,000
To assist the DCDC to foster community collaborations and participatory community design with urban neighborhoods and communities that are often ignored or left out of the decision-making process. (3 years)
Young Chicago Authors, Chicago, IL - $225,000
To support Public Workshops, free year-round writing classes at YCA, and Crossing the Street, a youth poetry symposium. (3 years)
Flexible Grantmaking Fund
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, San Francisco, CA - $150,000
General support for the development and dissemination of sustainability accounting standards to improve disclosure, resulting in better environmental, social and governance outcomes for society. (1 year)
frican-American workers continued to make notable employment gains in 2015, even as employment growth for whites and Hispanics slowed. The share of African-American adults with a job (i.e., the black employment-to-population ratio, or EPOP) has increased 2.5 percentage points since 2013—more than whites (0.5 percentage points) and Hispanics (1.6 percentage points). Over half of the increase in the African-American EPOP (1.4 percentage points) occurred in 2015, a slight acceleration from the previous year (in which the black EPOP increased by 1.1 percentage points). Meanwhile, employment gains for whites and Hispanics slowed from 2014 to 2015: the increase in the share of white adults with a job fell from 0.3 to 0.2 percentage points and the increase in the share of Hispanic adults with a job fell from 1.2 to 0.4 percentage points.
Read more in the Economic Policy Institute’s “Economic Snapshot”
Learn more about innovative city leaders who are working to build more inclusive, equitable, and cooperative economies, and catalyzing conversations about how municipal policy can be best used to build community wealth. Join a livestream conference Friday 01/29 at 1:00 p.m. (EST).
The conference has been organized by the Democracy Collaborative in partnership with the Surdna Foundation and hosted by the CUNY School of Law Community and Economic Development Clinic. Surdna President Phillip Henderson will offer introductory remarks.
The conference follows the publication of the Surdna-funded report Cities Building Community Wealth which profiles cities that have taken an alternative approach to traditional development practices in which economic development professionals and mayors are working in partnership with foundations, anchor institutions, unions, community organizations, progressive business networks, workers, and community residents.
What's emerging is a systems approach to creating an inclusive, sustainable economy where all can thrive. The work is place-based, fed by the power of anchor institutions, and built on locally rooted and broadly held ownership. It's about building community wealth.
In December, Phillip Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation, shared a captivating travelogue as part of the Cleveland Foundation's FRED Talks series. The event marked the 10th anniversary of theGreater University Circle Initiative, a collaboration among the city's leading anchor institutions, philanthropies, financial institutions. The essay that follows is a condensed version of the December event.
This past summer was an unusual one in the Henderson household. In early August, my older son Archie was heading off to his first year of college. Among other things, this meant that my wife, Liz, and I would share an entire month with just our younger son, Peter, until he started his junior year of high school in early September. Like lots of families, we typically take a vacation sometime in August, which is often the focus of protracted negotiation. But this summer we decided to leave it to Peter to choose where we might like to go.
When given this chance, Peter thought a bit and then said that he might like to take a road trip to see what he called the "iconic cities of the Midwest." To which we responded: "what the heck are the 'iconic cities of the Midwest.'" Peter said, "Well, you know, like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit...those places."
Liz and I thought about it a bit, and to my ears it sounded more like work than pleasure. But, as it turned out, neither Peter nor Liz had ever been to any of these cities. So we decided to take the leap. We pulled out of our Northern New Jersey driveway in mid-August for a two week swing through the Upper Midwest, stopping for a day or two in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, my hometown of Lansing, and Chicago. It was an amazing trip!
What We, No, What THEY Saw
Of course, I had visited all of these cities many, many times. Mostly on work trips and inevitably with a packed schedule of meetings. But experiencing these places at a more enjoyable pace-as a tourist-with two people who'd never visited them, was a completely different experience. And what they saw in these places, helped me see them differently.
These cities are, simply put, beautiful. The riverfronts in Pittsburgh and Detroit. The lakeshores of Cleveland and Chicago. The beautiful Art Deco architecture throughout the region. The funky neighborhoods. These are cities with much to show-and much to show off. And, given that the imagery we have of these places all too often focuses on rust and decline, this beauty was something of a surprise for Peter and Liz.
Culture was everywhere we went. It's present in what foods you're supposed to eat while you visit. In Detroit, you've got to order aConey. It was a culinary tour of all manners of hot dogs, sausages, heaping mountains of French fries and not a green vegetable to be seen. But it's also culture in the more traditional sense-museums, public gardens, libraries, churches, synagogues, mosques, galleries, and other cultural institutions. Culture was such a strong feeling throughout our trip.
And added to culture was a deep sense of history. These are cities of neighborhoods, with very clear, and often delicious, evidence everywhere you go of successive waves of immigration. The economic history of the United States is just as evident. Practically every block in these cities somehow marks the rise and decline of the industrial economy. You can see retail space and offices of high tech companies that had earlier lives as factories; churches converted to museums; and other evidence of the future in structures from the past. This is just a fundamentally different experience than what you see in other parts of the U.S.
Finally, what they saw, what they felt, was a surprising-to them at least-feeling of optimism and opportunity. Stuff was happening in these places. These seemed like places to be, and not places to flee.
What I Know
Seen through the eyes of first timers, these cities were a revelation. And I know that what Peter and Liz saw was not an accident of some sort. Particularly that ever-present sense of optimism and possibility, an almost tangible product of decades' of work. Some of these cities have been blessed by strong and effective mayors and other city
officials. In other cases that leadership has been lacking. But in all cases, community-based groups and nonprofit organizations have been hard at work for decades to arrest the decline of these cities and lay the groundwork for growth and renewal. And, if there's one thing that the cities of the Midwest have in surprising abundance, it's philanthropy. The impressive number of foundations dedicated to the long-term health and well-being of their communities are a legacy of the great industrial might of the Midwest in the early 20th century.
In recent years, community leaders have observed that so-called "anchor" institutions were an untapped asset in these cities and communities. Anchor institutions-colleges and universities, hospitals and medical institutions-are of the community, aren't relocating, and yet were not fully embracing the connection between their own success and the success of the communities in which they are based. With the help and commitment of foundations and other partners, over the past decade or so, these anchors have been innovators. They realize that by strategically leveraging their economic and political heft they can help re-imagine the future of their cities.
One of the things that makes anchors unique-and this is especially true of educational and medical institutions-is that they are about more than just the bottom line. Most are not profit-seeking, but rather they are mission-driven institutions. Over the long term, they understand that their success is synonymous with the success of the broader community. Without a thriving community around them, universities can't attract students, or top notch talent. And hospitals must be considered failures if they cannot fulfill their ultimate mission of helping to create a healthier populous.
And if anchors are mission-driven, this means that the kinds of leaders that are attracted to and ultimately succeed in these institutions are people who think more holistically about success. And the most successful anchor leaders leverage their positions to advocate in the policy world, among their fellow leaders, and within their institutions to further the momentum for equitable economic growth and change within their communities.
At the heart of the anchor movement, is a commitment to move communities out of poverty-especially ridding cities of entrenched, multi-generational poverty. This is because morally it's the right thing to do, but it's also because these institutions have come to understand that real progress is about providing opportunities for upward economic mobility and improving livability of communities. It's a about addressing poverty. And it's critically important to face the fact that in the cities I visited this summer, but really in American cities more generally, poverty and race are deeply connected. And so by identifying poverty as the central focus for our work, we are also naming race and equity as central challenges we are trying to solve.
We will face a number of challenges in the next ten or 20 years, and anchor institutions will be required to evolve if they are to remain fundamental to solving the problems of poverty and opportunity in our cities. So that they continue to create positive change, there are three areas that deserve the attention and thought of anchors: culture, jobs, and demographics.
A visitor's experience to these "iconic cities of the Midwest" is deeply cultural. But all too often, when we are trying to solve big problems, we shunt culture aside and think of it as a "nice to have" and not a "have to have." Culture is the fabric of communities, and it's what transforms places from points on a map where we just so happen to live, into flourishing communities that are great places to live a life. I would challenge us to always include leaders of major cultural institutions in the various conversations where urban problems are being addressed. Culture needs to be at the core of how we think about our communities' future.
Of course, one of the critical tools for solving poverty is job growth. And the economic might of these institutions makes job creation a key element of their interventions. But I would challenge us to extend our thinking beyond simply creating more jobs to focus on creating more good jobs. This means working to raise wages and benefits, both directly within anchor institutions and through influencing the anchors' vendors and business partners, and by using the civic- minded leadership of the anchors to influence jobs policy more broadly. But job quality is also about changing our assumptions about ownership, and considering cooperative business models-like what's being done in Cleveland through the Evergreen Cooperative-to increase not only wages but wealth in communities. Anchors have the power to change markets, and improve job quality through using that power.
Finally, demographics. We have all heard that the United States is going to become a majority minority country in 25 or 30 years. And many American cities have already reached that milestone. By acknowledging this reality as a source of strength and embracing a more inclusive model of economic growth, we will be better positioned to produce more and better jobs. However, if we are unsuccessful in dealing with entrenched poverty, if we can't help to spread prosperity throughout our communities, we will not see the kind of dynamic future we all want. The demographic destiny of the United States is real, and we must embrace that reality.
It was a weird decision, this trip to "iconic cities of the Midwest." But it was eye opening in so many ways. We got to glimpse the America of the past and the America of the future-almost simultaneously. We came away energized and hopeful about what's before us in this country, and, perhaps most importantly, my spouse and younger son became fans of those iconic cities. Maybe next summer we'll be back with friends!
The Surdna Foundation seeks a dynamic and thoughtful Executive Assistant to support the President and provide select support to the Human Resources and Administrative Manager at its Midtown Manhattan office.
The Executive Assistant provides support to the President’s office and, as appropriate, to the Human Resources and Administrative Manager, and serves as the point person for administrative matters related to the Board of Directors. S/he works closely and actively with the President, managing schedules and communications, and event planning with internal and external meetings.
Now online is a June webinar from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Social Impact Design Now series titled ‘Beyond Design School: Supporting the Next Generation of Practitioners.”
Led by Surdna’s Jessica Garz of the foundation’s thriving Cultures program, the webinar examines the existing structures of support for designers working with social impact and social justice goals. Garz leads a panel of speakers who run university-based training programs, organizations with fellowship opportunities for emerging leaders, and groups that provide funding to design-based organizations. The conversation covered the current landscape and future opportunities for field-wide growth.
The three-part webinar series, Social Impact Design NOW, explores how the field of Social Impact Design (or Public Interest Design or Human Centered Design) has changed since the NEA hosted a summit on the topic in 2012, in partnership with the Lemelson Foundation and the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum. That gathering asked three primary questions: Where are the gaps in the field? What organizational models are successful? and How can we educate the next generation of designers to do this work? Since 2012, there have been both subtle and dramatic changes in the field, with new approaches to academic and public education, a broadening awareness of Social Impact Design in general, and notable change in who is doing the work and how they do it.
State Tax Notes magazine today honored Good Jobs First, a Surdna Foundation grantee, as one of two notable organizations of the year for 2015.
Citing last winter’s proposed new disclosure rule on economic development tax breaks from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), STN wrote that “…Good Jobs First took the lead in pushing for the rules to be strengthened and approved. It rallied its supporters and like-minded organizations, coordinating a massive letter-writing campaign in support of the new standards.” Almost 300 comments were filed, STN noted, “far more than any other project launched in the last five years.” GASB Statement No. 77 takes effect on public budgets starting December 16 and later.
An essay in theChronicle of Philanthropyby Shawn Escoffery of the Surdna Foundation and Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy helped to catalyze funders in support of the proposed changes.
STN also cited GASB Statement No. 77 as one of the most meaningful tax issues of 2015. “Although the final rules don’t do everything Good Jobs First and others had hoped, the effort was successful, and GASB approved the new rules in August, setting the stage for a wealth of new reporting and analysis on how expenditures
will affect state and local budgets when the reports begin including the new information in 2017,” it reported.
“We are deeply honored to be recognized by the publication of record on state tax policy,” said LeRoy. “STN’s opinions matter a great deal to everyone who cares about sound tax policies, including economic development tax expenditures.”
Two-thousand fifteen was the third year in a row that Good Jobs First has been recognized for its contributions to United States public policy.
In 2014, GIS Planning, Inc. and fDI Intelligence (a division of the Financial Times in London) gave LeRoy an Economic Development Leadership Award as “a recognized and committed leader in educating and informing decision makers and communities on the ‘truth’ of incentives based on in-depth research, case studies and white papers.”
In 2013, the U.S. Library of Congress notified Good Jobs First that the Library would begin permanently archiving the content of Good Jobs First’s website as a historically important public policy record.
This is the second time State Tax Notes has honored Good Jobs First: In 1999, it interviewed LeRoy as part of a series on people who had an impact on state tax policy during the 20th century.
The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and Jobs to Move America, a national coalition uniting more than 50 community, faith, labor, and civil rights organizations, released a new report about opportunities for American job creation through transportation procurement policies, called “Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing Through Public Procurement Policies.” The report was funded in part by the Surdna Foundation.
The report comes after Congress approved the first long-term transportation bill in 10 years, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, on Friday, December 4. The FAST Act included the Buy America provision, which sets domestic content standards for the transportation purchases by Department of Transportation grantees to ensure that American tax dollars support U.S. manufacturing jobs.
The report was unveiled at a briefing on Capitol Hill Tuesday, December 8, at the Rayburn House Office Building’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing Room. Reps. Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Dan Lipinski (IL-3), co-chairs of the Congressional Buy American Caucus, provided introductory remarks.
Robert Pollin, Distinguished Professor of Economics, Co-Director, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), and co-author of the study, discussed key findings including how significant reforms of the “Buy America” program of the Department of Transportation can strengthen domestic railcar manufacturers and workers in this sector.
“Promoting manufacturing is a way to build jobs; we have lost five million manufacturing jobs in recent years,” said Pollin. “Strengthening monitoring and enforcement of Buy America provisions is crucial to ensure the creation of more manufacturing jobs.”
“Buying American is one of the fastest and most effective ways to create jobs and give the overall economy a boost. This legislation will help ensure that we are supporting American workers, especially the hard-working middle class,” said Rep. Lipinski (see statement).
To connect policy implications to personal impact for American workers, 11 workers from six states shared testimonies of their experiences working in transportation manufacturing. These included:
About The Political Economy Research Institute
Established in 1998,The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) is an independent unit of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with close ties to the Department of Economics. PERI promotes human and ecological well-being through our original research. Our approach is to translate what we learn into workable policy proposals that are capable of improving life on our planet today and in the future. In the words of the late Professor Robert Heilbroner, we at PERI “strive to make a workable science out of morality.”
About Jobs to Move America
Jobs to Move Americais a national coalition uniting more than 50 community, faith, labor, and civil rights organizations to maximize the value of U.S. tax dollars spent on public transit investments. Jobs to Move America is bringing a delegation of 11 transit workers from six states to Washington, D.C. to share their stories of how good jobs in transportation manufacturing are impacting their lives, their families, and their communities.
Join us for a free event organized by the Democracy Collaborative, the CUNY School of Law Community and Economic Development Clinic, and the Surdna Foundation. We'll be highlighting the work of innovative city leaders working to build more inclusive, equitable, and cooperative economies, and catalyzing conversations about how municipal policy can be best used to build community wealth.
January 29th, 2016 * 1-5 PM
Confirmed speakers, panelists, and moderators include:
A reception from 5-7 will follow the panel discussions.
Not in NYC in January? We'll be making a livestream available for a nationwide audience.
Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.