FAQ: State Resource Network Competition

As your state considers submitting an application to the National Resource Network's State Resource Network Competition, please reference the below information to find answers to frequently asked questions related to the State Resource Network competition, including background information on the National Resource Network, the purpose and impact of State Resource Networks, eligibility criteria, and the application process.  

  

What is the National Resource Network?

Has the Network been successful?

What is a State Resource Network and how do they work?

Background: An SRN Pilot Program

How State Resource Networks Will Work

Examples of How an SRN Could Help Your State and Its Cities

Can you provide details on the SRN competition and application process? 

Eligibility Criteria

Selection Criteria

Selection Committee and Evaluation Process

Informational Webinars for Prospective Applicants

SRN Competition Timeline

Where can I find the application? 

Who should I contact if I have additional questions?

 

What is the National Resource Network?

The National Resource Network (Network), initially funded with $10 million in federal dollars, has successfully partnered with 50 cities working to overcome significant economic challenges (unemployment, poverty and population decline) and increase overall economic competitiveness.  Under a pilot program with Massachusetts, the Network has also demonstrated how states can play an important role in supporting economic revitalization and fiscal health in economically challenged cities. 

Now, with $2 million in funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Network is launching new State Resource Networks (SRN) in up to five states. This innovative new program will provide states with the resources and flexibility they need to address some of the most pressing issues facing economically challenged cities within their jurisdictions.

Network Background

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) selected a consortium of five organizations - Enterprise Community Partners, The PFM Group, HR&A Advisors, NYU Wagner School of Public Service and the International City County Managers Association (ICMA) - to administer the National Resource Network. 

Cities with over 40,000 residents were eligible for Network assistance if they met at least one of the following criteria:

  • A 2013 annual average unemployment rate of 9 percent or more, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • A population decline of 5 percent or more between 2000 and 2010, as measured by the U.S. Decennial Census

  • A poverty rate of 20 percent or more (excluding students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate or professional school), as measured by the 2010-2012 American Community Survey

Approximately 300 cities nationally that met criteria for economic challenge were eligible to apply for direct assistance from the Network. All direct assistance projects were developed based on independent assessments of city challenges and opportunities.  Two factors – direct involvement of senior city leadership and tangible “buy in” from city government and stakeholders in the form of a minimum of 25 percent match for funding – were critical to determining a city’s readiness to partner with the Network.

Based on these assessments, the Network deployed teams of private and public sector experts to work hand-in-hand with city staff to implement locally identified projects and initiatives designed to deliver near-term economic benefits. 

Has the Network been successful?

The Network has achieved tremendous success in many cities, and has positioned these localities to greatly improve their fiscal stability and strengthen their ability to provide critical services to their residents. For example, in Providence, Rhode Island, the Network helped to develop the Providence Plan, which was designed to eliminate the City’s $176.8 million cumulative budget gap over ten years and begin to fund $200 million in priority investments in the City’s neighborhoods, children, infrastructure, and tax reform. In Waco, Texas, civic leaders have united to reduce the city’s poverty rate by launching Prosper Waco, a public–private partnership focused on improving education, health, and financial security. Network experts have worked with the city to ensure its budgetary resources align with Prosper Waco’s goals. They have provided additional guidance to devise a downtown development strategy that incorporates surrounding low- and moderate-income communities, and implements jobs programs that target young people considered difficult to employ.

What is a State Resource Network and how do they work?

Background: An SRN Pilot Program

While the National Resource Network was designed to foster a new partnership between the federal government and cities, state-city partnerships are equally essential to increasing the competitiveness of economically challenged cities.  State funding, tax policy, pensions, and civil service requirements are critical drivers in local government budgets.  State policy and investments can often make or break efforts to revitalize cities.

In 2015, Massachusetts launched a pilot State Resource Network with funding from MassDevelopment after identifying the Network as a comprehensive, innovative approach to enhancing economic competitiveness in Gateway cities.  Through the program, the State provides funding for technical assistance to cities that are facing economic challenges. As part of the program, the National Resource Network is currently working with Everett, Pittsfield and Worcester on a variety of critical projects.

Because of the importance of the partnership between states and cities, we believe that the Massachusetts State Resource Network is replicable and would be of tremendous value to both states and cities.

How State Resource Networks Will Work

The Network has earmarked $2 million in new funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation for matching grants to support up to five new state resource networks. The Network will devote a maximum of $500,000 in to help launch and provide technical assistance for each state resource network.

Participating states will be required to provide a minimum of a one-to-one match for Foundation funds to both launch the SRN and provide technical assistance.  The matching funds could consist of a new state allocation, alignment of existing funds or programs with the establishment and operation of the SRN, or could be raised from external resources.  Funds will go to the National Resource Network for administration of the SRN and provision of technical assistance pursuant to a memorandum of understanding.

While the Arnold Foundation funds are restricted to projects related to development and implementation of long-term financial plans for economically challenged cities, state funding can be used to provide an array of technical assistance to local governments in key policy and programmatic operational areas, such as housing, economic development, education, public works or public safety.

Examples of How an SRN Could Help Your State and Its Cities

Recognizing that each state is different, the technical assistance offered through the SRN program will be tailored to helping with the issues that the selected states feel are most important. This assistance could take a variety of forms—in both planning and implementation—and address multiple areas, depending on the needs of the states.  Examples of support could include projects such as:  working to better spend local government dollars to support state goals in health or educational outcomes; developing a comprehensive affordable housing plan to address a shortage of options for low-income residents; developing innovative workforce development strategies and roadmaps that connect hard-to-employ residents to jobs in high-growth industries; and helping to improve city service delivery in public works, education or public safety, based on benchmarking and national best practices.

In addition to the direct benefits to the cities receiving assistance through the SRN program, participating states would also benefit from stronger working relationships with the municipalities. Fiscally healthy and economically competitive cities can help increase the state’s tax base and reduce demands for state funding.

Can you provide details on the SRN competition and application process?

Eligibility Criteria

States can apply through individual or groups of departments or agencies, with a limit of one application per state.  Regardless of the agency that submits the application, the submission must include a letter of support from the Governor committing the state to establishment of the SRN should they be selected (please see the section of the application entitled, “Supporting Materials” for additional information about the requirements for the letter from the Governor).

Selection Criteria

Applicants will be evaluated on a number of criteria, including:

  • Executive leadership commitment to program success

  • Concentration of cities in need of technical assistance

  • Clarity and strength of the proposed SRN program design

  • Ability to clearly articulate how the program would benefit the state, including how it might expand or complement any existing technical assistance resources or programs

  • Ability of the state to commit to funding 50% of the program budget

  • Existing partnerships that might facilitate successful implementation of the program

Selection Committee and Evaluation Process

The Network will evaluate all applications. During the first round of the evaluation, completed applications will be reviewed by the Selection Committee, with a focus on assessing the applicants’ strengths in the areas outlined in the selection criteria. The strongest applicants will then be selected for advancement to the second round of the review process. During this phase, applicants will participate in a one-hour phone interview with Selection Committee members. The purpose of the interview will be to gather additional information about how the SRN might function in the applicant’s state and further assess the applicant’s ability and willingness to dedicate the resources needed for successful implementation of the program. During the second round of the process, the Selection Committee may request additional documents or contact applicants for additional information.  

Based on the information gathered in the second round, the Committee will then make its final selections. The states that are selected for participation in the SRN program will be notified by February 28, 2018.

Informational Webinars for Prospective Applicants

We’ll be hosting three webinars to provide an overview of the application process and to answer any questions that you might have on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, December 5th at 4:00pm EST

  • Tuesday December 19th at 4:00pm EST

  • Monday, January 8th at 4:00pm EST

You can pre-register by emailing deichenthal@nationalresourcenetwork.org and we will provide a link to the webinar of your choice. 

SRN Competition Timeline

Below is an overview of important dates related to the SRN Competition:

  • November 30, 2017 – SRN Competition opens

  • January 30, 2018 – SRN Competition closes

  • February 1 - 27, 2018 – Selection Committee reviews application and conducts second round phone interviews

  • February 28, 2018 – Selected states are notified of SRN Competition results

Where can I find the application?

The application is available online here and should be emailed to David Eichenthal at deichenthal@nationalresourcenetwork.org no later than January 30, 2018.

Who should I contact if I have additional questions?

Contact the Network's Executive Director, David Eichenthal, at deichenthal@nationalresourcenetwork.org.