I kept my jacket on which was a good idea. Because Common Market keeps its 73,000-square-foot building in North Philadelphia at a chilly 55 degrees. Any warmer and the produce wouldn’t keep, said one of its co-founders, Haile Johnston. And cooler temperatures might damage delicate vegetables.
The warehouse was one of the final stops on a two-day “regional food study tour” Surdna arranged to better understand how organizations like Common Market, which aggregates local produce, are helping to meet a growing consumer demand for food that has environmental, health, and social benefits.
Outfits like the Common Market, which are known as food hubs, are described by a Surdna grantee, the Wallace Center, as innovative organizations that get local food into grocery and food service supply chains by "navigating the tricky territory between smaller producers and larger buyers." Solving Local, a new report by the Wallace Center, documents how small-farm aggregators, food retailers, and distributors are teaming up to bring local food into larger scale wholesale channels.
Though many consumers have benefitted from the fresh produce, dairy products, and meat supplied by food hubs, few have heard of them or may confuse food hubs with farmers’ markets.
Commom Market's hulking warehouse, in a section of the city hit hard over the last few generations by the exodus of manufacturing jobs, couldn't be mistaken for a farmers' market. Unlike farmers’ markets, where growers and other local producers sell their goods directly to consumers, usually in an open-air public space, food hubs are oriented towards providing farmers, dairies and other producers with access to markets with larger volumes and consistent demand.
Many food hubs, like Common Market, also have an explicit social justice mission to provide nutritious, affordable, locally grown food to all, including the city’s most vulnerable communities.
And, they’ve got business models that, aside from the obvious differences in scale, are quite a bit different from large food service companies. They tend to place relationships at the heart of their enterprises.
Common Market’s Johnston understands that the success of the regional food system rests in large part on the power of these relationships. He knows his growers personally, understands how they are cultivating and preserving their land, and what it takes to manage a family farm. He wears many hats including advocate, customer, and marketer.
Johnston has made an effort to ensure that Common Market’s process is transparent at every step -- from growing and producing, to storage and distribution. Common Market even provides their customers with specific grower information including by whom and how the food was produced, a process known as ‘source identifying’ the food.
The only shame of our visit to Common Market, aside from slipping on the very stylish--but mandatory--hairnets, was knowing that we could only look, but not touch!
It’s hard to taste a luscious piece of fruit when you can’t even pick it up.
California’s largest banks buy few goods and services from minority-owned businesses, reports a new study from The Greenlining Institute, a Surdna Foundation grantee. In a state where people of color make up 60 percent of the population, banks obtained less than eight percent of the goods and services they procured in 2012 from businesses owned by African Americans, Latinos, Asians or Native Americans.
”Banks are a key engine of our economy, purchasing over $51 billion in goods and services in 2012,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Sasha Werblin. “It should not be considered acceptable that their supplier networks so completely fail to reflect the diversity of California.”
Key findings of the report include:
Entrepreneurship is essential to the health of communities of color. Minority business enterprises (MBEs) outpaced the growth of their counterparts between 2002 and 2007. When MBEs do business with major institutions like banks, they generate wealth and create jobs in their communities, but these firms still face challenges breaking through “old boy networks” and obtaining contracts.
Banks are major purchasers of goods and services, and thus a huge potential engine of economic activity. In 2012, the participating banks in this report spent over $51.05 billion on goods and services.
Nationwide, contracting with minority business enterprises was nominal, with median spending at just 5.96 percent of total contract dollars and ranging from 3.46 percent to 8.37 percent. Bank of America was responsible for nearly half of all total dollars spent with MBEs.
California MBE contracting was only slightly better, and pales in comparison to the state’s diverse population. The banks’ 7.72 percent median spending with diverse businesses fails to represent a state that is 60 percent people of color. Only five banks currently track state-specific spending in substantial detail, and many with substantial California market share do not.
Currently, no uniform standard exists for how to measure banks’ investment in supplier diversity, making “apples to apples” comparisons impossible. The federal Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion should create standard reporting regulations to create transparency and assist the financial sector, advocates and small businesses as they work together to improve opportunities for minority business enterprises.
Belk Brings More Than 25 Years’ Experience in Strategic Philanthropy, Corporate Social Responsibility and Civic Engagement
Woodland Hills, CA – Judy Belk will lead The California Wellness Foundation as its next president and CEO, effective April 7, 2014, announced Barbara C. Staggers, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Belk is currently senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a position she has held since 2002. Belk is also a member of the board of trustees of the Surdna Foundation.
“Judy has stellar operational and strategic leadership expertise in philanthropy and a strong sense of valuing the voices of grantees,” Staggers said. “This coupled with her track record in myriad philanthropic efforts that support underserved communities makes her a strong match for The California Wellness Foundation.”
A seasoned leader with more than 25 years of senior management experience in the philanthropic, government, nonprofit and corporate sectors, Belk played a pivotal role in building Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) into one of the nation’s largest independent nonprofit advisory firms, which currently advises on more than $300 million annually in more than 30 countries.
She launched the firm’s West Coast and Midwest operations and helped position RPA as a global “thought leader” in promoting effective strategic philanthropy, impact investing, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Previously, Belk served as vice president of global public affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., reporting directly to the chairman and CEO, with responsibilities for both the company’s and foundation’s leadership in the global fight against AIDS, as well as their economic development, environmental and antiracism initiatives.
“I am proud to join the Foundation and support its mission to promote a healthier California,” Belk said. “Since its founding, TCWF has played a historic role in courageously funding in public health areas that had drawn little or no philanthropic attention.”
Belk said that, in the process, the Foundation has expanded the definition of health and wellness for all Californians, particularly underserved, diverse communities.
“I’m looking forward to working with TCWF’s impressive Board, its talented staff and committed community partners across the state in leveraging the Foundation’s resources and voice in bringing about meaningful health changes,” she said.
Eugene Washington, M.D., vice chair of TCWF’s Board, believes Belk’s vast philanthropic expertise will add valuable insight to the Foundation’s current and future grantmaking programs, especially as they relate to health coverage.
“With the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, it is an important time in California and the nation,” Washington said. “I look forward to working with Judy on this vital issue and others that are affecting the health of the people of California.”
The Foundation is recognized nationally for its strategic core operating support that builds and sustains the capacity of health and human-service nonprofit organizations, and for its public policy grantmaking. TCWF has also earned national recognition for funding public education and policy outreach, including groundbreaking, multilingual campaigns in violence prevention, teenage pregnancy prevention and promoting diversity in the health professions.
Belk will bring to the Foundation a strong track record of leadership spanning the nonprofit, government and corporate sectors. At Levi Strauss & Co., she led a global team in pioneering work on AIDS education and prevention, and women’s economic development, and launched Project Change, a national antiracism initiative, which was recognized by President Bill Clinton with the first Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership in 1998. She also developed and led the company’s philanthropic efforts in postapartheid South Africa.
Throughout her career, Belk has been a strong advocate in promoting diversity, inclusion and equity both within and outside of the philanthropic sector. She has been a passionate voice in raising awareness of the needs of women and girls, as well as communities of color. She has been actively involved in the D5 Initiative, a national coalition of philanthropic leaders committed to increasing philanthropic resources for women, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, and people of color.
“The Foundation is at a key crossroads in its history,” said Cole Wilbur, TCWF’s interim president and CEO. “As we sunset the Responsive Grantmaking Program, the Foundation welcomes Judy, an enterprising leader with deep knowledge in philanthropy, to lead the next era of our grantmaking.”
Belk joins a distinguished roster of executives who have led the Foundation since it was founded more than two decades ago.
Belk is a frequent writer and speaker on organizational ethics, race and social change, and her work has been recognized with several state and national awards. Her pieces have aired on National Public Radio and appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
She currently serves on the boards of the Surdna Foundation, a national New York-based family foundation, and the Marlborough School, a Los Angeles-based, independent school for girls. Past board service includes Southern California Grantmakers, Northern California Grantmakers, National Center on Family Philanthropy, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and the Independent Sector.
Belk received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her master’s degree in public administration from California State University, East Bay, where she was recognized as the 1999 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.
Belk has lived and worked in California for her entire professional career. A current resident of Los Angeles, she is a native of Alexandria, Virginia, where she was recently inducted into the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame. She is married to Roger Peeks, M.D., who currently serves as medical director of Valley Community Clinic in North Hollywood. They have two young adult children.
Assisting the Foundation’s Board of Directors in the search for the next president and CEO was Isaacson, Miller, an executive search firm with offices in San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C.
The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.
One of the largest health grantmaking organizations in California, TCWF was established in 1992 as part of the conversion of Health Net from not-for-profit to for-profit status. It is completely separate from Health Net and operates as a private independent foundation. The Foundation headquarters are located in Woodland Hills with a small branch office in San Francisco. Since its founding, TCWF has awarded 7,338 grants totaling more than $890 million.
Getting local food into grocery and food service supply chains will require people who can navigate the tricky territory between smaller producers and larger buyers.
Solving Local, a new report published by the Wallace Center and funded by the Surdna Foundation presents five case studies which demonstrate how small farm aggregators are building profitable businesses by teaming up with retail and food service companies to meet the growing consumer demand for healthy, green, fair and affordable food.
The report finds that hub partnerships enable industry innovators to introduce safe and reliable quantities of small volume product into large volume wholesale channels.
“Food hubs are proving to be a needed intermediary in the supply chain,” Wallace Center executive director John Fisk says. “Hubs are the scaling up strategy for local food.”
The report encourages retailers and service companies to get acquainted with hubs in their territories as a first step to developing local food sourcing programs.
About the Wallace Center
Wallace Center at Winrock International serves the growing community of civic, business, and philanthropic organizations involved in building a new Good Food system in the United States.
The Wallace Center advances regional, collaborative efforts to move Good Food – healthy, green, fair, affordable food – beyond direct-marketing into larger scale markets so that more producers benefit, more communities have viable economies and greater access, and a greater number of acres are managed sustainably.
Tipped work is one of the fastest growing occupations and one of the lowest paid, especially for workers of color.
This infographic tells who they are, where they are, and what would happen if the federal minimum wage was raised to $10.10 for all workers.
Phil Henderson | President | The Surdna Foundation
Small businesses—especially those owned by people of color, women and immigrants—all too often lack the financial track record and the flexible capital needed to win contracts for infrastructure investments and other urban development efforts. Local businesses can and do win public and private contracts, but we want to increase the numbers and diversity of businesses that are able to participate in these bids. This requires that the right conditions be in place, including policies that support business growth, loan products with flexible underwriting standards, and business development and marketing assistance.
Ensuring that businesses owned by people of color, women and immigrants are well represented among those who benefit from these contracts is essential to fostering just and sustainable communities.
We’re working to dismantle some of the barriers that limit a business’s ability to thrive and grow. And the timing for this effort is just right, as New York City’s response to Hurricane Sandy has created a number contracting opportunities with rebuilding efforts like the City’s Build It Back program.
Together with a group of partners including the New York City Department of Small Business Services, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, and BOC Capital Corp, we’ve created a loan program to ease access to short-term loans for New York City-based minority- and women-owned contracting firms and other small businesses.
If you’re a small business owner who has just been awarded a contract, you’d think that bidding for and winning the contract is the toughest part. But without the short-term working capital to hire additional workers, buy equipment and materials, you can’t start—much less complete—your contract.
In a recent Crain’s New York Business article about the loan fund, Antonio Rivera IV, a Bronx-based owner of a construction firm, talks about how he thought the city contract he was awarded was going to be a game-changer for his small business. But there was one major problem:
This was a huge job for me, and my bid won it fair and square. But the cost of materials alone was going to take getting a loan, and since Hurricane Sandy the credit crunch has made getting these loans very, very tough.
Many owners of small businesses like Antonio Rivera IV face similar borrowing challenges—challenges that are even greater when these businesses are minority or women-owned and work in low-income communities. Often, despite solid work records, due to low owner net worth, or unestablished credit ratings, they typically encounter far higher borrowing costs, or are unable to get loans at all.
Surdna is making a $700,000 Program Related Investment in BOC Capital Corp, a Community Development Financial Institution which provides loans to help grow New York City-based small businesses, with a particular emphasis on women-, minority-, and immigrant-owned businesses. Our investment supports the $3.5 million loan program of which Goldman Sachs will provide up to $2.8 million. We’re also providing a $480,000 grant to BOC Capital to help them administer the loans and offer an increased level of support to help small businesses through the loan process. See more about the details of the Loan Fund.
We’re hopeful that by accessing the Loan Fund, contractors can have a powerful amplifier effect when their businesses create quality jobs in low-income communities and communities of color.
Sustaining Prosperity: A Long Term Vision for the New Orleans Region, a new report, outlines strategies for sustaining regional growth. Edited by Joel Kotkin, for Greater New Orleans, Inc., the report captures the factors that have contributed to Greater New Orleans’ economic recovery and resiliency, identifies challenges that could gate growth, and makes recommendations for sustaining prosperity.
“New Orleans has made a remarkable recovery that should be a real source of pride,” said Joel Kotkin. “But from now, the real challenge is to make this renaissance sustainable not just environmentally and economically but for a broad range of area residents.”
The report, funded by Chevron and the Surdna Foundation, identifies five key issues influencing our long term success:
* Building more middle class jobs
* Diversifying the economy by building on strengths
* Addressing poverty
* Recognizing that environmental and business challenges are congruent, not oppositional
* Ultimately, only growth is sustainable
“Greater New Orleans’ progress over the past five years has been remarkable; our gains, however, are fragile,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “In order to consolidate our gains, and ensure sustained growth, we need to objectively recognize our opportunities and address our vulnerabilities. This incisive report will help identify these strengths and challenges.”
The report paints the potential for a bright future in greater New Orleans: “A future scenario can be constructed where greater New Orleans emerges as one of the brightest spots in the North American economy. Not only does the region have natural advantages in terms of energy resources and transportation, it can claim primary sources of higher-wage employment. It also possesses a cultural cachet that attracts educated workers, but in a cost and regulatory environment that appeals to business investors.”
The report attributes several factors that put Greater New Orleans at an advantage for long term prosperity, including relatively low cost of living and the breadth of skills that can be easily found in the region.
The report also states that long term prosperity will only be realized if there is a conscious effort to promote broad-based, sustainable growth in a diversity of industries. Without a dedicated focus on higher education, particularly on engineering and the biosciences, and community colleges, technical schools and certificate training, the region may not be able to capitalize on the identified key sectors and advantages.
Affordable Working Capital Loans to Help Small Businesses Secure and Deliver on Construction Contracts
The Surdna Foundation the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, and BOC Capital Corp today announced a new source of capital for small businesses in NYC that have secured work on public or private construction contracts. Through $3.5 million in funding from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and Surdna Foundation to BOC Capital Corp, small business owners in New York City will be able to access capital to finance construction contract expenses and grow their businesses. This mobilization loan fund will also target contractors working with the City’s Build It Back program— which helps eligible homeowners and landlords rebuild homes that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy—to provide them with an additional option for financing recovery work.
“The loan fund continues Surdna’s commitment to sustaining existing—and creating new—quality jobs for people of color, immigrants, women, and low-income communities,” said Phillip Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation. “By providing needed capital at rates they can afford, the fund is not only growing small businesses in places where they are most needed, it is helping communities become more sustainable.”
“Small businesses are New York City’s economic engine, and one of their greatest needs is access to financing,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “In 2013, NYC Business Solutions helped connect more than 900 businesses to more than $45 million in capital, and thanks to Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, BOC Capital, and Surdna, there will now be even more financing options open to minority and women-owned businesses, small businesses working on Sandy recovery work, and any business working on a private or public contract.”
“Through our 10,000 Small Businesses program, we’ve seen that access to capital is a key component in helping small businesses grow,” said Dina Powell, head of the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. “We are pleased to work with our partners to get new funds into the hands of small business owners who need short-term working capital loans in order to bid and deliver on more meaningful contracts.”
“As a mission-based lender, BOC Capital is looking forward to helping minority-owned, woman-owned and small-scale construction contractors succeed and grow,” said Nancy Carin, Executive Director of BOC Capital Corp. “Thanks to this innovative collaboration, BOC Capital is intensifying its focus on the construction industry with the aim to improve the economic prospects of hard-working men and women in construction whose opportunities are hindered by lack of access to capital and management support.”
“We are excited that the Department of Small Business Services partnered with the private sector to help local businesses take advantage of available Sandy recovery projects. Helping the local economy while we rebuild is a win-win,” said Kathryn Mallon, Build it Back Program Director.
A total of $3.5 million is available through the new funding source, with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses contributing a $2.8 million senior loan, and Surdna Foundation committing $700,000 of subordinate capital to BOC Capital Corp., a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution focused on providing loans to minority-owned small businesses and micro-enterprises in low-income and underrepresented communities. Surdna Foundation has also committed up to $480,000 in grants to help operationalize the loan fund and build BOC Capital’s capacity to provide hands-on technical assistance to small businesses during the fund’s expected 3-year term. Loans originated through this fund will range from $20,000 to $150,000, with a monthly interest rate of less than one percent, a term of up to 12 months, and can be used to cover contract-related labor and equipment costs.
In order to be eligible for the new loan funds, businesses must: be in operation for at least 2 years and planning to grow; earn revenues between $100,000 to $7 million; employ a minimum of two (2) permanent or temporary employees; have already secured a construction contract; and be authorized to do business in the New York metropolitan area.
Loan applicants should contact their local NYC Business Solutions Center, which provides free services to help businesses in New York City start, operate, and grow. The Centers are located in all five boroughs and have relationships with a variety of alternative lenders, to help connect small businesses with capital. Other available services include business courses, recruitment, pro-bono legal assistance, help navigating government, and more.
For more information on alternative lending options and how to apply, visit www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness, call 311, or visit an NYC Business Solutions Center.
About Surdna Foundation
The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States -- communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. www.surdna.org
About the Department of Small Business Services
The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) makes it easier for businesses in New York City to start, operate and expand by providing direct assistance to business owners, fostering neighborhood development in commercial districts, and linking employers to a skilled and qualified workforce. For more information on all of SBS’ services, go to www.nyc.gov/sbs.
About Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million investment to help small businesses in the United States create jobs and economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with a practical business education, access to capital and business support services. The program is based on the broadly held view of leading experts that greater access to this combination of education, capital and support services best addresses barriers to growth. The program is active in urban and rural communities across the United States. Sites include Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. Access to capital is also available in parts of seven states: Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington. For more information, visit www.gs.com/10000smallbusinesses
About BOC Capital
BOC Capital Corp. is a Community Development Financial Institution and SBA Microloan Intermediary dedicated to providing financing and management support to underserved entrepreneurs and small businesses to launch, stabilize and grow. BOC Capital provides loans from $1,000 to $150,000 to community businesses in New York City, Westchester County and Long Island., along with pre and post-loan technical assistance. BOC Capital has loaned over $9.5 million to small businesses including contract-based loans for design/manufacturers and M/WBE contractors. Affiliate Business Outreach Center Network delivers comprehensive microenterprise and small business development services through local centers in all five NYC boroughs with a focus on underserved communities and immigrant, minority, women and low-income entrepreneurs.
Liz G. Deardorff | American Rivers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded almost $5 million dollars to academic research that will evaluate strategies and effectiveness of green infrastructure in Philadelphia, supporting the City’s Green City, Clean Waters plan to address combined sewer overflows in the Delaware River watershed with a focus on green infrastructure implementation for stormwater management.
Philadelphia has boldly approached its long-term plan for water management with innovative green infrastructure practices such as green streets, green roofs, rain gardens and rain barrels that help reduce the impact of stormwater, including sewage overflows, by slowing runoff and filtering pollution. The City is a national leader implementing projects, incentivizing private engagement in clean water and addressing pollution from runoff during storm events on a watershed, or sewer-shed basis. At theannouncement of the EPA awards, Mayor Michael A. Nutter described the commitment to green infrastructure as one that will “…not only result in better water quality for the City, but it will also provide a multitude of benefits for Philadelphians like cleaner air, revitalized green spaces, and even new economic opportunity.”
A green street in Philadelphia reduces stormwater runoff which lowers the impact on combined sewer overflows
in the Delaware River watershed | © Bureau of Laboratory Services
EPA has long promoted green infrastructure for stormwater management and in permitted approaches to control of water pollution PDF]. And, EPA began to provide support to Philadelphia’s plan not long after Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved it in 2011. Now, EPA’s awards for academic research will ensure that the Delaware River becomes cleaner through green infrastructure implementation by the watershed’s biggest city and, in turn, knowledge gained in Philadelphia “…can be applied across the United States to create a safer and more sustainable water supply” according to EPA ’s Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe. This research can benefit cities and rivers across the nation, and across Pennsylvania where Pittsburgh advocates are asking EPA to ‘upgrade’ a proposed long-term planto control sewage overflows in the Ohio River watershed by adding green infrastructure strategies.
The research will be conducted by institutions and researchers well respected as leaders in stormwater and green infrastructure research. Community members dependent upon clean water in greater Philadelphia and the Delaware River watershed hold these institutions’ demonstration of effective practices to a high standard emphasizing the notion that green infrastructure can be a clean water tool nationwide but must be practiced locally.
The academic research completed in Philadelphia could be replicated and tested at other institutions, providing technical support to assist communities in meeting their clean water goals. A bill introduced by Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) would provide further support for this type of research by establishing three to five Centers of Excellence to serve as clearinghouses of information on green infrastructure. Additionally, the Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act (H.R. 3449, S. 1677) would promote the use of green infrastructure across EPA and would create development and implementation grants to communities. As places like Philadelphia move towards cost-effective green infrastructure solutions, this bill will provide critical tools for communities.
Liz G. Deardorff is the Director, Clean Water Program for American Rivers in Pennsylvania. American Rivers is a Surdna Foundation grantee. This blog is posted with permission from American Rivers.
Jose A. Garcia | Program Officer, Strong Local Economies
Miami's Wynwood Neighborhood (Little San Juan)
Comfortably uncomfortable with the coexistence of wealth and poverty (quite often defined by race and ethnicity), Miami has become a city of extremes. It is where the rich go to invest and play and the poor dream.
Despite the deep recession, Miami has bounced back with brisk economic activity. The city’s emergence as a regional business hub coincided with its rise as an international banking center. Today, Miami has the largest concentration of foreign banks in the United States outside of New York. South Florida’s concentration of foreign banks afford foreign firms and families the dual benefit of access to Latin American markets and trade, along with the relative stability of the U.S. financial, regulatory, and monetary environment.
Beyond South Beach exists another Miami -- one that has been living in continually worsening poverty. In 2012, poverty in Miami-Dade rose to 25 percent from 14 percent in 2008, close to double in less than 4 years. The typical earnings, when adjusted for inflation, for a worker in Miami-Dade dropped 7 percent during the same period, from $27,202 to $25,400 - placing many workers perilously close to the poverty line. The concentration of trade, tourism, and international banking alongside a high number of poor or working poor creates an economic dichotomy. Not surprisingly, from 2005 to 2009, Miami was considered one of the top five cities with the greatest household income inequality.
With this backdrop, I had the opportunity to visit Miami as part of the PLACES Fellowship, a year-long leadership development program that offers tools, knowledge, and best practices to enhance funder grantmaking decisions in ways that are responsive to the needs and assets of low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. During our stay in Miami, we had the opportunity to visit two neighborhoods that highlighted the city’s harshest realities - Wynwood and Little Haiti. Each neighborhood shed light on the different realities of community development in an ethnically diverse city.
Wynwood, historically referred to as “Little San Juan", began in the 1950s as a destination for Puerto Ricans both from the island and northeastern cities. Over the decades, the neighborhood has changed as new Latino populations from Central America have made Wynwood their point of entry. And yet the rate of poverty –currently a staggering 38 percent- has remained high. Much of the community lives in poverty as they watch the world come to party in their backyard.
A prime example is Art Basel, an annual art show that started in 2002 and presents artwork from across the globe. Over 250 of the world's leading galleries participate, drawing over 70,000 visitors each year with many ending up in a sub-section of Wynwood that has become a lively arts hub with 70 or more galleries and beautiful mural work, known as the “Walls of Wynwood,” around the neighborhood. This has paved the way for economic activity including dining establishments and other businesses that cater to this fast-growing market.
While eating in this part of the neighborhood one evening, it was hard to miss all the art world people walking in the street and the beautification occurring in the area. Yet, it is also hard to avoid the reality that the long-term residents of the community do not seem to be benefitting from the area’s revitalization. It seems as if Wynwood’s residents have had little to no opportunity to negotiate the terms of how the art hub is changing their neighborhood. The reasons for this could be many and it would require more than a day to decipher what the neighborhood might have looked like if the community had a voice in the development process. As an outsider, it appears as if the absence of any meaningful community advocacy has left most residents at the mercy of the market. Without community organizing and leadership to negotiate with developers from outside the community, how can Wynwood residents insert themselves into the change process and benefit from the increase in economic activity?
Contrasting the lack of leadership in Wynwood, you encounter a different dystopian reality in Little Haiti. Upon stepping into this neighborhood, the cultural realities of a distinct Haitian population are everywhere. The art and architecture of the neighborhood calls to mind the “Iron Market” in Port au Prince complete with minarets. The neighborhood is anchored by a large community center with an even grander auditorium and an exterior marked with colorful murals that celebrate the dominant Haitian culture. There is also a communal plaza where residents gather on a regular basis and which also serves as the heart of this vibrant, but economically distressed community. There is no doubt that this structure assists the process of feeling at home and building a sense of community and cultural pride.
Miami's Little Haiti Neighborhood
Like Wynwood, Little Haiti is defined by its foreign and U.S. born populations of color. Yet Little Haiti feels visually different. Unlike Wynwood, it seems to be more in control of its surroundings. It would be hard to negate that there is some. Through community agency and political determination, Haitian leaders are trying to ensure their neighborhood reflects them. Yet, despite these community actions, are its inhabitants economically better than those in Wynwood? On the surface, Little Haiti seems welcoming and familiar to anyone with links to Haiti, and there seems to be a real sense of community pride. But simply looking at facades does not allow for a true understanding of neighborhood development. Behind closed doors, in people’s homes, poverty still rings true. Nearly 40 percent of Little Haiti’s population lives in poverty.
As I think about the factors that could change the economic circumstances of neighborhoods, I wondered if community development is simply the beginning of fostering civic engagement and building the power of residents. Efforts to change the face of a neighborhood should be connected to advocacy activities that help to change systems that truly affect lives like education, economic and health policy. So as we urge neighborhoods like Wynwood to create a leadership infrastructure much like Little Haiti’s, we should also be thinking about how to ensure that change in neighborhoods includes broader city or state wide coalitions so that issues are addressed in a systematic way that benefits all residents. In a city like Miami, where extremes seem comfortable sharing a bed, business-as-usual will only lead to further inequality. It is far, far better that change be reflected not only in the colors of the doors but in the lives of those that live behind them.
Jose A. Garcia is a PLACES Fellow and Program Officer with the Strong Local Economies Program at the Surdna Foundation. Prior to joining the Surdna Foundation, he was a Wealth-Building Policy Fellow at the National Council of La Raza where he co-authored the report “Making the Mortgage Market Work for America’s Families” and also co-authored a chapter in the book “From Foreclosure to Fair Lending.” Jose was also an Associate Director of the Economic Opportunity program at Demos and co-author the book “Up to Our Eyeballs: How Shady Lenders and Failed Economic Policies are Drowning Americans in Debt”.
Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.