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Pratt Center helps lead national Equitable Innovation Economies Program with four-city pilot

August 23, 2016
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Brooklyn’s Pratt Center for Community Development is spearheading a national urban-development strategy that sets inclusivity benchmarks for economic success. Photo credit: Pratt

In order to support and develop equitable, inclusive urban innovation and manufacturing economies, Brooklyn’s Pratt Center for Community Development, Oakland-based PolicyLink and the national Urban Manufacturing Alliance created the Equitable Innovation Economies project. Over the past two years, EIE’s pilot brought together four cities – New York City, Indianapolis, San Jose and Portland (Oregon) – to collaborate, rather than compete, on longterm economic development. The four cities are sharing research, strategies and data to foster and track inclusive planning. Earlier this month, Pratt released City Snapshots of each initiative, which we summarize below.

Over the past two years, each city developed public-private investments to intentionally break down innovation barriers that are holding back equitable development. The EIE team worked with cities to help advise on programmatic strategy, capture results and set next steps. While the goals in each city – increasing economic diversity, re-establishing manufacturing and training local workforce – are similar, the footprints have their own flavor. 

New York City’s advanced manufacturing incubator, Next Top Makers, provides a cohort of startups with funds, mentorship, free work space and production credits. Portland’s Startup PDX Challenge focuses on leadership development, entrepreneurial education, mentorship, low-interest loans and free rent. Indianapolis’s industrial redevelopment delivers recruitment and training services to legacy manufacturers and is launching a 23,000 square-foot makerspace . San Jose is strengthening its pipeline to better-paying Silicon jobs by marketing manufacturing opportunities and supporting internship opportunities.

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In New York City, the NYCEDC Next Top Makers program incubated advanced manufacturing startups and built a citywide ecosystem of business support. Photo credit: Next Top Makers 

Creating Inclusive Economic Intentions and Cross-City Dialogue Across the Country
Equitable Innovation Economies isn’t just about propelling business. The goal is to increase economic diversity, close the gap between legacy and new manufacturing and channel funding to the wider ecosystem. In Portland, racial inclusion was rock bottom in 2013-2014 – only 2% of companies who received venture capital had black founders, and less than 20% had woman founders. Working with EIE amplified Portland’s focus on inclusion by a factor of 10, Portland Development Commission’s Katherine Krajnak said, leading to the citywide Inclusive Entrepreneurship Action Plan. The yearly PDX Challenge was created to support minority early-stage founders and balance the makeup of the city’s startup scene.

Portland’s intentional support of people of color and women helped reaffirm New York City’s focus on inclusivity in its advanced manufacturing programs. Two years ago, the Next Top Makers cohort had just one woman founder and no self-identified people of color. This year, 67% of cohort-company founders, 41% of community workshop mentors and 55% of workshop participants self-identified as women or POC. “The entrepreneurs … and make-up of these attendees serves as an early indicator that our efforts to think more deeply about inclusion and diversity are making some progress,” says NYCEDC Director of Industrial Policy Miquela Craytor.

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Indianapolis has the Midwest’s fastest-growing minority population and is re-inventing how it builds manufacturing hubs and recruits and trains skilled workers. Photo credit: Pratt

Building Social Capital and Advanced Manufacturing Clusters
To build stronger pathways to Silicon Valley and better-paying jobs, San Jose has been closing the awareness gap between assemblers, machinists, welders and high-tech manufacturers. San Jose’s Office of Economic Development is cultivating social capital between communities of color and companies like Jabil, the third-largest contract manufacturer in the world. “We asked, ‘What’s the best way to connect people with work they didn’t even know was there,'” says Pratt Center’s Tanu Kumar. In collaboration with work2future, the OED coordinates internship programs that are proving grounds for full-time jobs. With more than 100 participants, 65% gained employment according to Pratt’s EIE City Snapshots.

Indianapolis, meanwhile, melded urban-development and community-development strategies to nourish manufacturing in support of the Midwest’s fastest-growing minority population. The Mass Ave/Brookside Industrial Corridor, formerly a piecemeal collection of bland buildings, is being redeveloped and will include a 23,000 square-foot makerspace, retail and entertainment venues. Small, medium and large legacy manufacturers can share hiring needs with local economic groups like the nonprofit Riley Area Development Corporation, who spreads the word in communities of color. The Center for Working Families and Exodus Refugee Immigration then train and certify workers to prepare them for employment.

We look forward to sharing more about this national initiative as the EIE evolves.