On the morning of Super Tuesday in February, leaders from business, philanthropy, education, and the public sector gathered at the San Diego Central Library for the Future of Growth Forum presented by Bank of America. Here, this community heard from members of the Brookings Network for Economic Inclusion (BNEI) on how they are addressing economic inclusion in their own cities across the country.
The panel followed opening remarks from Julian Parra, Senior Vice President of Executive Business Banking in the Pacific South West region at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, on why the bank sees this work as an economic imperative, as well as from Joe Parilla, Fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program on why inclusive growth matters for regional economic development.
Mark Cafferty, President and CEO of San Diego Regional EDC (EDC), moderated the panel. He opened with an explanation of what BNEI is, and how it has facilitated inspiring relationships between leaders of a variety of organizations, from unique cities, who have found themselves working to address very similar issues. The underlying issue is a modern lack of inclusivity, the long-lasting result of prejudices that existed for years, and still exist in systems across the country.
MarySue Barrett of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) in Chicago kicked off the panel by sharing how MPC, a uniquely positioned economic development organization, made the case to their stakeholders that inclusivity was an economic imperative with a tangible cost. MPC’s report, The Cost of Segregation, quantified the economic impact of continuing to allow our communities to be segregated. That cost came out to approximately $4.4 billion. Each year that they continued living in a segregated society, they were losing out on $4.4 billion to their gross regional product. MPC followed this report with a two-part roadmap to equity, through which they outline how the region can address these issues.
Brad Whitehead of Fund our Economic Future in Cleveland, Ohio followed MarySue’s comments by discussing the inception of his organization, and how they are addressing the issue as it relates specifically to employment. Brad stated, “Economic development is too important to leave up to the economic developers.” In other words, this massive challenge across the United States must have the buy in of everyone in the economy – not just the economic development organizations, or just the philanthropies, but rather everyone together.
Following Brad’s comments, Tawanna Black of the Minneapolis Center for Economic Inclusion reminded us of the harsh realities of racial and economic segregation, that exist every single day in her city and in others across the country. As she explain how her organization works with business and philanthropy to “disrupt systems and influence market forces”, Tawanna reflected on a constant reminder of this economic imperative: her own children and their peers who are still today being treated differently because of the color of their skin, or their zip code.
Finally, Michael Huber discussed how the Indy Chamber works in a similar fashion to EDC, and related his own work, getting large employers in Indianapolis involved in inclusive growth, to what we are doing here is San Diego. Michael pointed out that the research Brookings did with Indianapolis served as a kind of myth-buster for them in revealing what challenges their constituents were actually facing when it came to inclusivity and affordability.
EDC would like to thank all of its supporters and partners for making this event, and this work, possible. A special thanks to The City of San Diego for its consistent support and for allowing us to use the beautiful Downtown Central Library.
If you would like to support EDC’s inclusive growth initiative, contact Eduardo Velasquez.