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Connecting Local People to the Prosperity of Place

This LISC white paper examines emerging strategies that connect industrial district revitalization to local workforce efforts and how investments in industrial districts can fuel programs designed to train low-income residents and ensure they access local jobs. The paper takes a close look at how this plays out in the field with two case studies from Brooklyn, NY and one from Jackson, MI.  

Executive Summary

Manufacturing remains a vital part of the American economy, employing 12.75 million workers and generating broader spillover effects throughout the economy. At the same time, the nature of manufacturing is shifting with the introduction of advanced technologies and the growth of the maker movement.

The viability of this evolving manufacturing sector depends on the availability of industrial sites and conditions that allow manufacturers to operate efficiently and profitably. It also depends on the availability of adequate labor. In recent years a growing number of manufacturing jobs throughout the country have gone unfilled, representing a lost opportunity for businesses that can’t take advantage of economic growth and for longtime city residents who might access these growing manufacturing jobs.

Multiple local, state, and federal agencies have led the way in recognizing the opportunity that manufacturing jobs can provide, and a number of city-specific initiatives to promote industrial districts have taken hold in recent years. Despite local efforts to promote manufacturing and industrial districts, there have been few policy explorations of how to integrate district revitalization with local workforce development efforts. How can these investments in industrial districts be linked to programs designed to train low-income residents of surrounding communities, so as to ensure they have access to local jobs?  

In order to address this question, the LISC Research and Evaluation team conducted a series of interviews with industrial district and economic development practitioners, workforce development professionals, advocacy organizations, and city officials throughout the country. This research brief reviews emerging strategies to connect industrial district revitalization to local workforce efforts, before turning to more extensive case studies of work in three  districts in New York City and Michigan. The brief concludes with a discussion of policy and practice implications.

As reinvestment in older industrial districts intensifies, using a place-based lens is a potentially powerful strategy to advance equity.

Emerging Strategies

Using shared spaces as a venue for connecting manufacturing businesses to local community. Industry City, a large historic industrial complex located in Brooklyn, New York, created Innovation Lab, an integrated employment and entrepreneur-development center whose open events and training opportunities foster links between local residents and the district’s technology, creative, and manufacturing companies.

Engaging employers through branding efforts. Made in NYC, an organization that includes 1,300 manufacturers, started as a local branding program trying to capitalize on the strength of New York City’s brand, but expanded its mission to become a support organization for its members, which has worked to connect youth to manufacturing jobs.

Exposing youth to career possibilities and training them. Through the Guilford Apprenticeship Partnership, businesses in Guilford, NC, are partnering with the local community college to establish an apprenticeship program for high school students.

Engaging employers to develop the right kinds of training curricula. In Chicago the Business and Career Services (BCS), North Suburban Cook County’s One Stop operator, has partnered with manufacturers to develop the training curriculum for a youth internship program to be delivered by local community-based organizations citywide. 

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