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Major economic development projects and infrastructure investment can present both tremendous opportunities and significant threats for communities and residents. Using a community benefits approach, as a local government official you have powerful tools available to ensure that these projects provide the greatest social, economic and environmental benefits while also not harming surrounding neighborhoods. In short, community benefits are assets available through economic development that meet real community needs. Examples include community access to living wage jobs, affordable housing, health and community services and open space.
The City of Seattle supports construction jobs and meaningful employment for those in our community through programs that prepare and train workers for careers with family-sustaining wages. In early 2015, the Seattle City Council adopted a new City law, proposed by Mayor Ed Murray, to create construction career opportunities for those in our community.
Public construction projects are an expenditure of public tax dollars; as such, public agencies have an opportunity to develop policies for public construction projects to benefit taxpayers with employment and business opportunities. Targeted hire initiatives create institutional mechanisms to increase the participation of socially and economically disadvantaged workers and businesses in public construction projects based on work availability. Many public agencies have used targeted hire to leverage their investment in construction into good jobs for those who need an economic boost. For communities that experience historic disinvestment and chronic un- and underemployment, such work can create lasting stability for families and a pathway to revitalize the local economy.
An executive order outlining the process for considering environmental concerns and equitable development in public contracting.
Over the past decade, the community benefits movement has emerged as a powerful mechanism for challenging the political and economic realities that undermine urban communities. Community benefits campaigns strive to build new political relationships among unlikely allies, uniting labor, community, environmental and faith-based groups behind broad-based agendas focused on economic development that prioritizes high-quality jobs, creates new career paths for low-income workers, marshals resources for environmental cleanup and sustainability, and avails residents of access to more affordable housing options. In many cities where community benefits coalitions work, research has shown that, too often, new development fails to generate high quality jobs and career paths for residents of the poorest parts of the city. Local hire requirements are a critical component of the community benefits agenda because they create concrete mechanisms for ensuring that investment of public funds in economic development will direct resources into low-income neighborhoods. The point is not only to hire local residents, but to use local hire requirements to target opportunities to low-income residents and people of color who might otherwise not benefit from new development. Local hiring programs are on the strongest legal footing, and are likely to produce the most meaningful outcomes, when they are rooted in efforts to reduce poverty rather than merely to hire city residents.
Best Value Contracting creates a set of enforceable qualifications with a single point of accountability, pervormance qualifications, workforce development, oversight and transparency on publicly funded projects.
Policymakers have long understood the job creation opportunities that public infrastructure projects provide. To enhance these jobs' economic and social impact and lift families out of poverty, many cities and states have incorporated job quality and equity policies into public infrastructure projects. Such policies ensure that these projects don't simply create jobs, but instead provide good jobs in the local communities that need them. These projects can create quality jobs that provide valuable pathways out of poverty and into a sustained career, while building much-needed infrastructure. Some cash-strapped municipalities have turned to public-private partnerships (P3s), which use private capital to finance public infrastructure projects, as a strategy for accomplishing infrastructure renewal and development. The P3 approach demands the same focus on jobs that traditional infrastructure projects have, and the successful strategies used for traditional projects may be used on P3 projects with little or no modification.
First source hiring ordinances, contract clauses, and related agreements seek to provide meaningful employment opportunities to residents living within communities most directly impacted by local development projects. Local development projects are typically undertaken based on broad representations that the project will create a multitude of good-paying jobs within the local community. However, municipalities often find that the very residents intended to benefit are instead left out of the employment opportunities that arise from the project. First source hiring initiatives seek to ensure that local residents receive a fair share of the economic benefits of public development projects.