Over the next ten years, LISC will direct 50 percent of our annual investments to fuel inclusive economic development in underinvested communities across America. That means preparing people to take on high quality, well-paying jobs. And it means ramping up our work to help small businesses succeed and transforming vibrant commercial and industrial districts. “We have no doubt that this kind of progress is good for residents, good for communities and good for the country,’ says Maurice A. Jones, LISC CEO.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a time a few years back when I was three miles underground watching a young man drive a steel bar into the wall of a coal mine in western Virginia. The force of the steam drill he operated was so intense it shook his entire body, me and everything around us. He did this work five days a week for eight hours a day, his manager told me, shoring up the tunnel walls to keep the whole operation from collapsing in on itself.
It’s not news that the coal industry is contracting, and does not support the hundreds of thousands of workers and families it once did. There are many industries in that position. But there are also many more that are expanding and in serious need of talent.
I’m reminded of that young mine worker because his fierce dedication and work ethic is emblematic of millions of hard-working Americans. Regardless of their level of skill or experience, they have the ability and motivation to contribute to our flourishing economy. What they need is investment to prepare for new jobs, so they can continue to make a living and help transform the economies where they live.
To that end, we are rolling out a series of strategies at LISC that intensify our commitment to connect people like that young coal miner to 21st century jobs, and to generate more quality jobs in historically underinvested communities.
Over the next ten years, we will be directing upwards of 50 percent of LISC’s annual investments to fuel inclusive economic development. That means expanding our efforts to prepare talent to take on high quality, well-paying jobs. And it means revving up our work to develop vibrant commercial and industrial districts, and support small businesses and entrepreneurship.
Yes, this is a tall order. And it’s completely doable. Which is why we are positioning our organizational muscle and our investments to make it happen.
First off, we have created a new leadership position to head up this work. Bill Taft, the longtime executive director of LISC Indianapolis, will be the inaugural Senior Vice President of Economic Development. For years, Bill has led transformative work in his home city using the very strategies I mentioned above. Going forward, he will bring his local knowhow and vision to supporting this work across LISC’s national network.
We are also increasing our investments in small businesses. After all, two out of every three new jobs in this country are created by small-scale entrepreneurs. To support them, we are unveiling a new suite of lending products customized to the needs of small businesses located in low-wealth communities.
We are pleased to be launching a new small business lending affiliate to help us scale up our investment in entrepreneurship beyond anything we’ve ever done in the past. I’ll be talking more about this in the weeks to come, but once fully operational, we anticipate that this enterprise will lend more than $100 million annually, and link local businesspeople in the communities where we work with the capital and expertise they need to thrive.
Last, but certainly not least, we are forging new relationships with corporate and public partners like Union Pacific and the Department of Labor. Over the last year, we’ve already raised more than $40 million in grants to power this work--capital expressly dedicated to realizing our economic development strategy. We know we will need significant investment to do this work.
We also know this is the right time to beef up our inclusive economic development work with new energy and resources. There is growing demand for prepared workers at the same time that unemployment is at an all-time low. Over the next decade, that demand will only increase as millions of folks retire—particularly from middle-skill jobs that pay robust wages. These jobs require post secondary credentials, not necessarily four-year degrees.
We want to ensure that people are financially stable and skilled up for those jobs so they can flourish professionally, personally and economically. We also want to grab this moment to help turn more communities, all across America, into effective job generators, through transformed industrial zones and well-capitalized small businesses. We have no doubt that this kind of progress is good for residents, good for communities and good for the country.
We cherish a vision of this great nation as a place where people are hard at work rebuilding their cities and small towns. Where old industrial districts are being reborn at the hands of strivers who want to make things again there. And, yes, where everyone gets a fair shot at creating and sharing in prosperity and success.
We have the strategy and the drive to make that vision a reality. Please join us!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maurice A. Jones, President & CEO, LISC
Prior to joining LISC, Maurice was the Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed 13 state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state. Before that, he was second in command at the U.S. Dept. of HUD, serving as deputy secretary in charge of operations. He has also been Commissioner of Virginia’s Dept. of Social Services and Deputy Chief of Staff to then-Gov. Mark Warner. At the U.S. Treasury Dept. during the Clinton Administration, he managed the CDFI fund. His private sector experience includes top positions at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, a Richmond law firm and a private philanthropy investing in community-based efforts to benefit children in Washington, D.C.