The Obama administration has launched a new economic and community development program in six cities.

Chester, Pa.; Cleveland; Detroit; Fresno, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; and New Orleans have been selected to take part in Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2).

The pilot initiative aims to strengthen local capacity and spark economic growth. Federal agencies will provide experienced staff to assist the cities. The teams will work with local governments and the private sector to leverage federal dollars and cut through any red tape they may encounter while working with multiple agencies and a maze of regulations.

“Over the past two and a half years, the Obama administration received feedback from leaders all across the country who described the kind of partnership that would be most useful to them for economic growth,” said Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes in a statement. “The result is Strong Cities, Strong Communities, an innovative new pilot that will help strengthen local communities while also delivering federal resources and assistance more effectively.”

The pilot cities were selected on the basis of economic need, strong local leadership and collaboration, potential for economic growth, geographic diversity, and the ability to test the SC2 model across a range of environments. Federal assessment teams spent time on the ground working directly with mayors and other local officials to determine needs, opportunities, and gather input for the initiative.

Under SC2, Community Solutions Teams will assist cities with issues that mayors have identified as vital to their economic strategies, including efforts to support community revitalization.

In Detroit, the team will be made up of representatives from the several federal departments, including Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Labor, Transportation, Commerce, and the Small Business Administration.

SC2 will also have a fellowship program that will select, train, and place early- to mid-career professionals to serve multi-year terms in local government positions to give cities additional capacity. The program will be funded primarily by philanthropic partners. The Rockefeller Foundation is providing $2.5 million in initial funding.

In addition to the six pilot locations, SC2 includes an Economic Planning Challenge designed to help additional cities develop economic blueprints. This national grant competition will enable cities to adopt and implement innovative economic development strategies to support comprehensive city and regional planning efforts. Six cities will be competitively selected to receive a grant of approximately $1 million that they will use to administer a competition, whereby they will challenge multi-disciplinary teams of experts to develop comprehensive economic and land use proposals for their city. The challenge will be administered by the Economic Development Administration.

Another component is the National Resource Network (NRN). However, this is still pending authorization of funding. Under the plan, NRN will aggregate public and private resources to provide a broader set of cities, towns and regions with access to a one-stop portal of national experts to provide holistic policy and implementation support. Once funds are secured, HUD will host a competition to select an intermediary to run the NRN.  Cities, towns and regions will apply to get access to the NRN, and outside experts will apply to be able to provide consulting services through the NRN. 

For more information, visit