Needs Assessments

Chattanooga, Tennessee – National Resource Network

Enterprise led a National Resource Network (NRN) needs assessment for the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The goal was to evaluate specific needs, challenges and opportunities identified by the city. Based on the assessment, the NRN team created strategies aimed at economic turnaround for the city.

Challenges: The city identified five separate priorities to evaluate – economic growth, affordable housing, safety, service provision and high-performing government.

How TA was provided:

  • The assessment team spoke with city leadership to discuss Chattanooga’s application for assistance and its current priorities.
  • A pre-assessment briefing book explored demographics, local economy and community characteristics such as schools, crime and housing. It also provided a fiscal and operations review.
  • During the assessment visit, the team met with the local executives, agency principals and key stakeholders to discuss the principal challenges to economic development and recovery.

Results:

  • The summary report included findings and recommendations for a technical assistance (TA) and capacity building strategy to better target resources to meet community needs.
  • The proposed scope of work includes an affordable housing analysis and strategy built on existing city and county reports and other data sources, including:
    • A review of the current affordable housing stock, resources and programs
    • An assessment to identify existing gaps
    • A review of the employment demographics of people and communities in need of affordable housing
    • Recommendations on how to maximize current resources
    • Identification of key stakeholders
  • The proposed scope of work will contribute to use data to identify and prioritize needs and investment strategies, including a workforce and labor market assessment.
  • NRN proposed a two-day workshop with the city and stakeholders on housing and workforce issues to look at the findings of the assessments, further investigate implications and identify opportunities for collaboration.

Passaic, New Jersey – National Resource Network

The city of Passaic, New Jersey, requested assistance with their ongoing efforts to revitalize the Eastside neighborhood. The city asked for National Resource Network (NRN) assistance for one of two strategies:

  • Help implementing a business growth strategy for the manufacturing, warehouse and distribution industries in the Eastside neighborhood
  • Help developing mentoring and finance programs for businesses along the neighborhood’s Market Street corridor

Challenges: Although Passaic has several plans and planning efforts focused on housing, transit-oriented and economic development, the city lacked a unified approach to economic development. The NRN team identified the following challenges and gaps through a review of available market data, existing plans and discussions with staff and key partners:

  • Relatively small jobs base (only 19,000 positions, or one job per 2.5 adult residents)
  • Potential parcels for large-scale development in Eastside are almost all contaminated brownfield sites and face high costs for environmental remediation and construction, limiting profitability for rehabilitation or reuse
  • Land acquisition and parcel assembly for large developments in other parts of the city is unrealistic due to the high number of single-family properties
  • Passaic struggles with highly concentrated poverty due to overcrowding in small single-family properties
  • Only 13.8 percent of the city’s residents over 25 have obtained a bachelor’s degree, compared with 25.6 percent in Passaic County and 35.8 percent in New Jersey
  • All but 28 of the 13,200 students enrolled in the Passaic School District are eligible for free meals, the highest rates of free and reduced lunch eligibility among all cities eligible for NRN assistance nationwide
  • Potential closing of several anchor institutions, including a local hospital and school
  • Reduced state funding and incentives available for UEZ businesses
  • Pending revaluation of residential real estate that could create cost burdens for existing owners

How TA was provided: Through a combination of offsite analysis and onsite discussions, the NRN team assessed the city’s core challenges by reviewing existing plans, market data and partner capacity to develop a comprehensive economic development strategy. The assessment team met with several city departments, including: its Enterprise Zone Development Corporation; Business Administration; Department of Community Development; Board of Education; and partners such as Thomas Edison State College; six designated redevelopers; and several small business leaders. With these stakeholders, the team mapped out core challenges, existing strategies, available funding resources and local capacity to carry out the strategies.

Results:

  • The needs assessment helped to target resources and align priorities to meet the needs of the community. The NRN team developed and presented a holistic approach to address the city’s core challenges of economic development. This new approach aligns strategies for increasing workforce and small business development, expanding education options and programs, promoting mixed-income housing and leveraging a growing asset in the food distribution industry.
  • The city is now better positioned to align funding and partnerships with identified priorities as a result of its deeper understanding of the connection between the core challenges and holistic strategies required.

Dallas – National Resource Network

The city of Dallas requested technical assistance (TA) on a wide range of poverty-related issues in the southern part of the city.

Challenges: Dallas is sharply divided between the wealthier north and the poorer south. Issues in south Dallas include concentrated poverty, blight and abandoned buildings and the loss of middle-class and professional populations. Poverty in Dallas is becoming more severe despite high concentrations of wealth, with southern Dallas being considerably more impoverished than the north.

The city overall is also suffering from significant blight and aging housing stock. Of 350 census tracts, 48 are classified as “blighted,” and 148 have “moderate blight.” Over the past two years, the mayor authorized the demolition of 500 blighted homes, but new construction has not replaced them.

The mayor launched his GrowSouth initiative in February 2012, in recognition that neighborhoods must receive a critical mass of new investment to change market perceptions. The Office of Planning and Neighborhood Vitality is taking the lead on developing a strategic plan for the Southside of Dallas called “Neighborhood Plus Plan.” The city of Dallas acknowledges that it does not know how to leverage GrowSouth with Neighborhood Plus.

How TA was provided: Through a combination of offsite data analysis and in-person discussions, the NRN team assessed the city’s existing plans and market data and evaluated the city’s and its partners’ capacity to leverage GrowSouth and Neighborhood Plus. The assessment team met with city departments and stakeholders, including field visits and tours with the Office of Economic Development, Community Prosecutor’s Office, Habitat for Humanity, Department of Housing, City Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Community Outreach, Children’s Hospital, City Square, Inclusive Communities and WorkForce Solutions.

Results: The TA provided comprehensive support and capacity building to implement the mayor’s GrowSouth initiative.

  • NRN is deploying a team, consisting of national experts in the fields of workforce development, economic development, community development and municipal operations, to provide intensive and responsive implementation support for the mayor’s GrowSouth initiative during a 12-month time period. This comprehensive assistance is focused on one of the three GrowSouth target areas, Lancaster corridor, as this area is the most likely to generate cross-sector and cross-departmental partnerships. The goal is subsequently to leverage these partnerships to further revitalization in other neighborhoods throughout south Dallas.
  • NRN will provide GrowSouth staff and the Lancaster corridor GrowSouth General Manager with advisory operational support, tailored to the evolving needs of the initiative and grounded in national best practices and a data-driven understanding of the local market.
  • Based on this pilot initiative, NRN will also develop a set of recommended strategies and practices to be replicated as the initiative expands to other parts of the city.