Economic Development Fellowship
Charlotte, NC
Peer Exchange Panel

Promoting Economic Opportunity for All Charlotte Residents through Targeted Job Training and Support for Small Business Development.

City of Charlotte’s Equity Focus
A recent Harvard University study found that, among the 50 largest metro areas in the country, Charlotte ranks 50th in terms of opportunities for upward mobility. This news in large part motivated the City of Charlotte to reexamine and reimagine how to provide access to good jobs and living wages to residents across the spectrum of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The fellowship team developed a project proposal focusing on promoting economic opportunity for all residents using a four-prong approach of small business capacity-building, talent development, business investment incentives, and business corridor revitalization. The City of Charlotte implemented several components of their plan by early 2017, including hosting focus groups and surveys of small business owners and developing an expanded online resource portal for small business owners (www.charlottebusinessresources.com). As part of the fellowship work, the City also finalized the Partnership for Inclusive Employment and Career Excellence (Project PIECE), an adult talent development program delivered in collaboration with Goodwill and the Urban League that will target individuals with multiple barriers to employment. The City also aims to create a recruitment database connecting employees to qualified workers, and is seeking an amendment to the business incentive policy change that would require the recipients of incentive grants to recruit from the new talent database.

Recommendations from Technical Advisory Visit
The visiting advisory team observed that the City of Charlotte is already making positive headway in targeted workforce development efforts for individuals with barriers to employment. However, the team pushed the Charlotte fellows to be even more intentional about focusing their efforts on equitable outcomes.

The major recommendations from the panel were to 1) ensure talent development programming is connecting to employers and job opportunities, 2) explore the creation of a an equity incentive in addition to current base incentives, and 3) be more deliberate about increasing the rate of minority business creation.

Specific strategies suggested by the advisory team include:

  • Establish focused career pathways for job training that include education, credential attainment, and job advancement
  • Build out a long-term youth development strategy and consult the Career Pathways strategy
  • Develop a tracking system to record the hiring performance and contracting opportunities generated by businesses receiving incentive grants
  • Implement a community charrette to help solicit feedback and envision improvements for business corridor revitalization (similar to Bronzeville Area Redevelopment Charrette in Milwaukee; Fairmount Indigo Planning Initiative in Boston)
  • Expand the small business portal to connect business owners with resource providers
  • Clarify and amplify the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders in the small business ecosystem, including the role of the City of Charlotte
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