The COVID-19 pandemic, economic decline and systemic racial injustice have all had a significant impact in cities across the South over the past year. Mirroring their communities, city leaders, staff and stakeholders are stretched thin after many months of responding to critical and immediate needs of city residents and businesses. But from challenges, comes opportunity.

As cities move forward, embedding economic inclusion strategies into a framework of well-being and resilience is essential in supporting and ensuring the success of families, businesses and communities. 

Federal funding entering cities and states through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and other sources provide enormous opportunities for cities to build sustainable and transformative approaches to strengthening economic resilience in communities and reducing racial wealth inequities.

The Southern Cities Economic Inclusion City Cohorts

The Southern Cities Economic Inclusion (SCEI) initiative builds the capacity of cities to implement economic inclusion strategies that close racial, economic equity gaps, and expand economic opportunities for residents and businesses of color. The initiative includes two peer learning cohorts that deepen capacity and build the leadership skills of city leaders and staff.

SCEI is a partnership made possible with financial support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and in collaboration with facilitation, research and data support from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The initiative builds upon previous work led by these organizations in several southern cities. The Federal Reserve is not providing funding for grants nor selecting participants for this initiative.

NLC is proud to work with the following sixteen cities on this important initiative:

  • Baton Rouge, LA
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Chattanooga, TN
  • College Park, GA
  • Danville, VA
  • Jackson, MS
  • Knoxville, TN
  • Mobile, AL
  • Montgomery, AL
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Nashville, TN
  • Norfolk, VA
  • Patterson, LA
  • Savannah, GA
  • Saint Petersburg, FL
  • Tallahassee, FL

Hear a message from our partners to our participants.

Participating mayors and other local leaders will learn from each other in identifying crucial community assets and equity gaps while innovating local strategies for families to achieve economic security.

Project cities will receive technical assistance and grants from NLC, as well as support from national philanthropic partners to raise additional local matching funds. In addition, participants will gain insights into utilizing American Rescue Plan Act ARPA funds to support economic inclusion with an eye towards sustainability.

Project cities are focused on strategies and policy changes that include:

  1. Entrepreneurship, access to capital, and small business development including city procurement strategies;
  2. Strategies to increase employment and wages, including employer engagement, anchor institution engagement, education and training access, and wraparound supports, such as housing;
  3. Financial inclusion and debt reduction strategies; and
  4. Economic empowerment strategies targeted to youth and young parents.