Rocky Mount’s selection as one of only seven cities in the country to receive special federal aid in a campaign to become more economically competitive comes as both a reward and a challenge to community leaders.
Taking full advantage of the resources offered by the Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will yield opportunities that might never have been possible otherwise in Rocky Mount. The challenge to community leaders is to exercise their imaginations in ways that will make the next couple of years an investment period with high chances of long-term success.
If those ideals sound a little vague, that’s because cities chosen in the first wave of the program have grown in vastly different directions using resources that Strong Cities, Strong Communities helped them access.
Here are a few examples of how the program worked in some of the cities selected three years ago:
- In Chester, Pa., a city of about 37,000 people just outside of Philadelphia, partners worked to build the first new grocery store in more than a decade.
- In Cleveland, a partnership between NASA, the city and a network of local manufacturers resulted in NASA employees sharing 400 hours of expertise with nine small to mid-size companies, plus access to $450,000 in low-interest loans.
- In Detroit, federal officials worked with the city and investors to lay the groundwork for a new light rail line. By tapping federal grants, the city also was able to hold onto 108 police officers who were in danger of losing their jobs.
- In New Orleans, a new program helped more than 500 residents become first-time homeowners.
Like Rocky Mount, the members of the first wave of Strong Cities, Strong Communities faced daunting economic challenges. With the help of the feds – and a creative approach to problem-solving – officials in those communities say they are in a better place now than they were three years ago.
Here’s hoping for a similar success story in the City on the Rise.