“Reinventing Older Communities: Bridging Growth and Opportunity” — a biennial conference that this year incorporated the last of the four-part Rust Belt series that the Richmond Fed’s Community Development office helped organize — examined how communities can promote economic growth in ways that benefit all residents.
The conference, which our Bank cosponsored, took place May 12–14 in Philadelphia, drawing more than 450 attendees from 25 states — including a busload of Baltimore-area community development representatives, many of whom had attended the previous Rust Belt conferences at the Bank’s Baltimore branch.
The series was a great opportunity to hear how other cities are handling similar issues, according to Mel Freeman, executive director of Citizens Planning & Housing Association in Baltimore. “It’s nice to get a perspective from the rest of the country,” he said.
Throughout the past year, the Richmond Fed has worked with regional Reserve Bank offices in Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia to bring together community leaders in these older industrial cities to share strategies for attracting new residents and investment. The first three conferences rotated among Baltimore, Cleveland and Detroit and were videoconferenced among the four Banks.
“It’s important for us to have strong relationships with the Community Development professionals in our District,” said Sandy Tormoen, assistant vice president and our Bank’s community affairs officer. “This conference is another example of how we support events with internal and external partners to bring together a broad spectrum of voices to hear about the critical issues facing our communities.”
Held in the nation’s fifth largest city, the Philadelphia conference explored such issues as innovations in funding and financing; new partnerships in neighborhood development; strategies to connect neighborhood revitalization and education reform; and new lending opportunities in a changed mortgage market.
Baltimore City Public Schools incoming CEO Gregory Thornton — who’s currently superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools — joined a panel of school leaders from Detroit, Philadelphia and Toledo, Ohio, to talk about the challenges they face and how providing a quality education to all students carries broad economic benefits. Renowned director and screenwriter M. Night Shyamalan, who grew up in Philadelphia, talked about his efforts to close America’s education achievement gap, which he details in his book, “I Got Schooled.”