May 22, 2014

National Resource Network: Helping Cities Help Themselves

Memphis, TN skyline. Memphis is one of the first 50 communities eligible for "311 for Cities."

When people think about municipal or local government services, they probably think of police and fire departments, trash pick-up, water systems, street maintenance and other specific services that impact their daily lives. What many might not consider is the vital role that local government plays in decisions that impact the physical and economic future of the city: where affordable housing will be built, what kind of businesses come into the area, and how neglected business corridors are revitalized. These combined planning decisions, and the public and private investments that follow, help determine the long-term economic health and social wellbeing of a community.

Over the last decade, and most notably after the economic recession, local governments confronting strained budgets and increased demand for services have turned to outside sources, including the federal government, for assistance to address the ongoing challenges facing their communities: high unemployment, growing inequality, under-performing schools, aging infrastructure and vacant and blighted properties.  President Obama has insisted on a robust partnership with mayors and other local leaders to address these challenges.  As part of this effort, the Obama Administration announced today the launch of the National Resource Network (the Network). The Network is a pilot program designed to serve as a “311″ resource for cities through which communities nationwide will be able to connect to a network of private and public sector experts that will provide local governments with strategic help on key economic issues and aid the turnaround of local economies.  The Network will provide cities with various forms of assistance, including on-the-ground expert engagements and expert advice through the “311″ resource.

Through the “311″ resource, beginning with today’s announcement, city leadership from more than 50 cities throughout the U.S. will able to connect to experts from academia, philanthropy, federal agencies, and business organizations that will guide them through a set of best practices and proven solutions to their issues or questions. The “311” resource will expand to hundreds of cities nationwide over the next year.

Cities that engage the Network will be assisted by a consortium of policy experts like Enterprise Community Partners, 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. Philanthropic partners such as the Annenberg Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Surdna Foundation have invested in the Network and will also be providing expertise and advice to the Network.

With the help of these partnerships across the country, this Network will help cities develop more strategic economic development plans and more effectively invest federal dollars in future generations.  The Obama Administration is pleased to bring this new resource to bear as we all work to create more economically resilient communities that build ladders of opportunity and promote economic growth and prosperity for the American people.

Click here for more information on the National Resource Network or visit www.nationalresourcenetwork.org.

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