Six cities have been selected for a pilot program designed by the Obama Administration to strengthen local capacity, spark economic growth and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used efficiently.  The initiative, named Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) will involve multiple federal agencies which will provide staff to work with local governments. 

The program has three primary goals:  

  • To help local governments cut through federal red tape and navigate the "overlapping maze" of agencies, regulations and program requirements.
  • To provide on the ground technical assistance and planning resources tailored to local governments' needs and helping them use the federal funds they already receive more efficiently and effectively; and
  • Too develop critical partnerships with key local and regional stakeholders that encompass not only municipal and state governments, but also new partnerships with the business community, non-profits, anchor institutions, faith-based institutions, and other public, private, and philanthropic leaders.

The participating cities are Detroit, Michigan; Chester, Pennsylvania, Cleveland, Ohio; Fresno, California; Memphis, Tennessee; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The six were selected on the basis of economic need, strong local leadership and collaboration, potential for economic growth, geographic diversity, and the ability to test the SC2 model across a range of environments.  Federal assessment teams spent time on the ground working directly with mayors and other local officials to determine needs, opportunities and gather input for the pilot initiative.

SC2 has several components.  Community Solutions Teams (CST) made up of federal employees from several agencies will work with the mayors of participating cities with issues they have identified as vital to their economic strategies including efforts to build on local assets, strengthen regional economies, develop transportation infrastructure, improve job-training programs and support community revitalization.  In Detroit for example the CST will be made up of representatives from the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Transportation, and Commerce and the Small Business Administration.

The SC2 Fellowship Program will complement the CST by the competitive section, training, and placing of early to mid-career professionals in multi-year positions to give cities additional capacity.   The Rockefeller Foundation is providing $2.5 million in seed money for this program.

The SC2 Economic Planning Challenge is a national grant competition designed to help cities beyond the first six develop economic strategies to support comprehensive city and regional planning efforts.  Six cities additional cities will be selected to receive $1 million to administer a challenge competition to develop economic and land use proposals. 

Contingent on receiving funding, the National Resource Network (NRN) will aggregate public and private resources to provide a broader set of cities and regions with access to a one-stop portal to tap holistic policy and implementation support.  An intermediary will run the NRN and outside experts will be available to cities, towns, and regions to consult from a menu of customized and comprehensive technical assistance. NRN will also foster peer-to-peer learning to strengthen the network of urban practitioners and thinkers.  

 "Over the past two and a half years, the Obama Administration received feedback from leaders all across the country who described the kind of partnership that would be most useful to them for economic growth," said Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes.  "The result is Strong Cities, Strong Communities, an innovative new pilot that will help strengthen local communities while also delivering federal resources and assistance more effectively."