$4 Million Laura and Arnold Foundation Grant to Provide Assistance to Economically Challenged Cities

National Resource Network to Launch Multi-Year Financial Plans in Five Cities
and Competition to Encourage States to Aid Local Government Turnarounds

The National Resource Network (the Network) has received a $4 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) to launch an enhanced initiative to provide on-the-ground, customized assistance to economically challenged cities across the United States and fund a competition among states to drive the adoption of State Resource Networks.

“From Richmond, California to Providence, Rhode Island, and points between, we know that many cities continue to face significant financial and economic hurdles,” said David Eichenthal, Executive Director of the National Resource Network. “We have seen firsthand that when a city is struggling, the only way to address their challenges is to tailor the solutions by defining the problem clearly and bringing people together to collaborate. Thanks to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation we can continue our work in more cities and help build stronger partnerships between cities and states.”

Since its full launch in 2014, the Network has partnered with 50 cities in 22 states across the country to overcome significant challenges – including population decline, poverty, access to health care, and unemployment – and to increase their overall economic competitiveness. In addition, the Network has focused on increasing partnerships between state and local governments, launching a pilot State Resource Network with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2016. The LJAF grant will allow the Network to:

  • Develop and assist in the implementation of multi-year financial plans for five additional economically challenged cities;

  • Launch a competition among states to create more State Resource Networks, increasing the ability of states and cities to collaborate to address economic challenges; and

  • Provide second-round support for up to five cities to implement their existing multi-year financial plans.

The Network provides direct assistance to cities with populations of 30,000 or more who are experiencing or recovering from some form of economic distress. To identify those cities, the Network looks at several measures, including a high unemployment rate or growth in unemployment, a high poverty rate or growth in poverty, and a measurable population decline over the past five years. Nationally, more than 300 cities are eligible for assistance.

The nation’s most economically challenged cities often face serious fiscal issues, and the Network has found that multi-year financial plans are a best practice for these local governments. For example, in 2016, the Network led the development of a ten-year financial plan for Providence, Rhode Island, to balance budgets and provide for key investments in education, neighborhoods and infrastructure. To build broad support for the plan’s continued implementation, the Network worked with the City to bring community stakeholders into the process, including colleges and universities, businesses, nonprofits, and foundations. The City is now moving forward with implementation of the plan. In November 2016, Fitch upgraded its rating of Providence’s debt, citing the city’s “improved budget practices.”

In addition to strong financial plans, state-city partnerships are essential to increasing the competitiveness of economically challenged cities. State tax policy, pension and civil service requirements, and funding are critical drivers in local government budgets, and state policy and investments can often make or break efforts to revitalize cities. In 2015, Massachusetts launched a pilot State Resource Network (MassSRN) with funding from MassDevelopment after identifying the approach as a comprehensive, innovative way to enhance economic competitiveness in Gateway cities. MassSRN projects are now under way in three additional cities across the state: Everett (community development and housing strategy), Pittsfield (operational review), and Worcester (strategic plan).

About National Resource Network

In 2013, the National Resource Network began as a technical assistance program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Network is led by a group of leading experts from the private and public sectors, including Enterprise Community Partners, PFM (Public Financial Management), HR&A Advisors, New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the International City/County Management Association. The Network develops and delivers innovative solutions to American cities to help them address their toughest economic challenges. More information about the National Resource Network is available online at http://nationalresourcenetwork.org. You can also follow the National Resource Network on Twitter @NatlResourceNet.