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A Short List of Investments in Equitable Development Across the U.S.

Did you know? There is an economic upside to incorporating equitable development as part of an economic growth strategy. By 2050, our country stands to realize an $8 trillion gain in GDP by focusing efforts on eliminating disparities and increasing opportunity for the underserved and people of color. But what does this economic gain mean for neighborhoods like yours? What role should government, private businesses and organizations play to ensure it happens?

In our review of equitable development plans and equity work in cities across the country, we’ve learned that there are many different approaches to organizing around equity; that each stage of this work has strategic support partners cities can engage with; and, while many are assessing whether they are meeting this equity imperative, there is no shortage of ideas, unique programs, policies and partnerships that are moving the needle.

Here we highlight a few of these efforts:

Business and Entrepreneurship

While many are addressing issues around supplier diversity and minority business contracting - like Albuquerque, New Mexico who is increasing the diversity of City contracts as part of Mayor Tim Keller’s equitable development initiative, OneAlbuquerque - others are focusing on customized programming in specific entrepreneurial sectors and neighborhoods.

Detroit is leveraging the power of food entrepreneurs to drive neighborhood change. Initiatives like it’s Detroit Kitchen Connect program and Food Lab Detroit are helping food-based entrepreneurs find commercial kitchen space and a community of support and resources to thrive. Or, St. Louis and its Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, a regional partnership piloting several programs that advance equity in tech-based entrepreneurship such as toolkits creation, data sharing partnerships to building greater access to investors.


Seattle has taken bold steps to combat their rising cost of living. For the past 30 years, they have upheld a Housing Levy, whereby tax dollars are carved out to secure affordable housing. In 2014, the City brought together community leaders to create a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, which outlined initiatives to be pursued by the City, including the creation and preservation of affordable housing by updating requirements for new development projects and advancing more stringent legislation to protect vulnerable tenants’ rights. Today, their recently launched “Housing Seattle Now” plan prioritizes investments in housing for low- and middle-income families with the creation of a $15 million revolving loan fund. The Fund encourages community ownership and neighborhood reinvestment by supporting nonprofits in communities facing displacement pressures with the acquisition of properties.


Philadelphia has made great strides in preparing residents with the right skills, addressing barriers that prevent career opportunities and building a more coordinated workforce system. Their city-wide workforce development strategy - in response to its Growing with Equity: Philadelphia’s Vision for Inclusive Growth plan - has generated early wins. The City has doubled the number of opportunity youth in Career Pathway Programs. One of the ways they accomplished this is by forming a public-private partnership, called ApprenticeshipPHL. The partnership between city agencies and local employers has helped streamline the process for setting up Registered Apprenticeship programs and finding local talent, particularly through an online platform that provides informational resources to employers and directs job seekers to open apprenticeship opportunities. Read more about their strategies and successes here.


The health equity plan Healthy Chicago 2.0 was released in Chicago in 2016. Though the city does not have an explicit equitable economic development plan, Healthy Chicago 2.0 unifies many aligning goals between government agencies by identifying root causes of health as The Built Environment, Economic Development, Housing, and Education. The Plan outlines over 200 strategies to reach 30 specific goals around investing in community health.The Chicago Department of Human Health recently awarded $150,000 in seed grants to organizations that will improve walkability and the built environment in communities that have historically suffered from disinvestment.


Driving Indianapolis’ equity work isn’t an explicit equitable development plan but rather a host of nonprofit organizations and private partners working to ensure access and opportunity for all of its residents. Amidst other initiatives such as their Inclusive Incentives program, the City recently expanded its public transportation access by creating plans for a new Red Line rapid bus transit system. The electric bus route will improve speed and reach of the transportation network, and make it easier for previously disconnected community members to have access to central activity nodes. Additionally, Indianapolis has recently launched its Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Loan Fund, a $15 million fund that will encourage affordable housing development near transit lines to enable equitable access to jobs, education, healthcare and more.

What’s working for you? Let us know at [email protected].

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