Presidential Election Task Force Co-Chair Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary, Ind., discusses economic resilience at Big Ideas for Cities.

Cities are the engine of our nation’s economy. From roads and transit to parks and libraries, to law enforcement and emergency services, cities create the conditions that drive new business, spur innovation, and attract talent and investment.

Six years after the Great Recession, the nation’s economy has turned a corner in many respects. According to NLC’s 2015 survey of local economic conditions, the economy is improving in nearly all cities, with 28 percent of cities reporting vast improvement, and 65 percent reporting at least slight improvement.

While job growth, increasing residential property values, and improved retail sector health stabilize local economies, these rising tides have failed to lift all boats. The state of our economy today is a tale of two cities. We see an economy that continues to outpace the rest of the world in innovation, but also one that is weighed down by slow productivity growth, suppressed wages and stubborn unemployment.

The recovery of the housing market in many cities is a double-edged sword. Rising home prices are helping to replenish local tax bases, but at the same time exacerbating the affordable housing crisis. According to the NLC 2015 survey, the median income of residents has increased in 53 percent of cities, but demand for survival services such as food banks and homeless shelters also has risen.

Cities work best when the economy works for everyone. A critical task facing the next President will be resolving these disparities. To start, all levels of government must work together to cultivate a skilled workforce to meet 21st century employer needs. The economic competitiveness and long-term success of our cities are directly tied to the quality and skills of the workforce.

The federal government also has a vital role to play in supporting the entrepreneurs and small businesses that make our local economies centers of innovation and economic reinvention. Entrepreneurs and small businesses not only create well-paying jobs, they deliver vital goods and services, generate sales tax revenue, and contribute to the unique character and livability of city neighborhoods.

Local leaders are in a unique position to support solutions to our nation’s complex economic challenges. Cities stand ready to work with the next President to do what cities do best: create environments that support workers, grow businesses, and strengthen local, state and national economies.

Specifically, we ask the next Administration to:

  1. Increase federal funding for workforce development and training programs that provide basic skills training and opportunities to upgrade skills to adjust to changing job market demands;
  1. Leverage federal resources to support universal pre-K, afterschool programs and other initiatives that ensure that all children and youth have an opportunity to graduate from high school prepared for post-secondary education or employment; and
  1. Support federal economic development tools such as New Markets Tax Credits and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which allow cities to drive investment in struggling neighborhoods, attract and retain businesses, and grow jobs.

Learn about the other top priorities for cities:


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