Place-Based Funding and Economic Opportunity in Smaller Cities

Place-based funders can play an important role in connecting economic growth to economic opportunity. That is a key message of the report Looking for Progress in America's Smaller Legacy Cities: A Report for Place-Based Funders. Edited by Will Lambe from the Atlanta Fed, Susan Longworth from the Chicago Fed, and Karl Stauber from the Danville Regional Foundation, the report summarizes a study tour undertaken by representatives from four Federal Reserve Banks and more than two dozen place-based funders. The study tour fell under the auspices of the Funders' Network–Federal Reserve Philanthropy Initiative.

Looking for Progress in America's Smaller Legacy Cities documents study visits to Chattanooga, Tennessee; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Rochester, New York; and Grand Rapids, Michigan—all cities that have experienced some revitalization since the sharp national decline in economic activity during the late 2000s. The aim of the report is to help guide representatives of organizations that fund projects in specific geographic areas—often referred to as "place-based funders." These funders can play an important role in helping residents of growing cities access broader economic opportunity.

Over the course of the project, participants came to understand that revitalization in these places is moving along two distinct paths: an "arc of growth" and an "arc of opportunity." This divergence led the study participants to observe that broad community prosperity lies in recognizing that growth alone does not naturally lead to opportunity, and connecting growth to opportunity requires place-based funders to advance policies, make investments, and develop programs with deliberation.