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Community Highlights

North Carolina and South Carolina: Highlights From Durham and Spartanburg


MDC Celebrates 50 Years of ‘State of the South’ and Continues Work on Economic Mobility

David Dodson, MDC

More than 125 people crowded into 307 West Main Street in Durham, North Carolina, on April 10 for the 50th release of MDC’s “State of the South.” Joining the discussion panel for the release of the report were Ray Owens, senior economist and policy advisor, and Jeanne Milliken Bonds, senior manager, regional community development, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

“MDC's 50th anniversary report, ‘State of the South: Recovering Our Courage,’ is a look back and a motivation to press forward,” said Bonds. “The South has some of the lowest upward economic mobility rates in the nation so our work continues to find solutions and innovations for our region’s young people, our workforce of the future.”

David Dodson, president of MDC and a member of the Community Investment Council at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, opened the forum. “We examine the South through three lenses critical to social and economic progress — belonging, thriving and contributing — and recommend solutions for creating Southern communities where all people thrive,” said Dodson. 

Jeanne Milliken Bonds, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Panelists reflecting on the report following Dodson's remarks also included: A.J. Fletcher Foundation Fellow Samone Oates-Bullock, Duke University Public Policy Professor Robert Korstad and Blueprint NC Project Coordinator Ivanna Gonzalez.

Bonds pointed out that “investment at the local level creates ingenuity and innovativeness, and we should continue that.”

“Hard work will raise the level of economic output in the short run, but will do little to improve economic growth in the long run,” Owens said. He agreed that innovation is the key to economic growth because that growth comes more from technology than just hard work.

Ray Owens, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and Jeanne Milliken Bonds, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond 

On May 16, MDC continued the discussion in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with a focus on its Network for Southern Economic Mobility, a program where leaders in selected communities focus and examine how well their existing systems are reaching young people facing the most difficult barriers to advancement. The community teams analyze the policies, systems and culture that impede their progress, and adapt or build pathways to connect institutions and social supports, from school to employment. The communities learn and share how others are implementing structural reforms in the Southern economic and political context.
The first cohort of cities began in 2016, and includes Athens, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Greenville, South Carolina; and Jacksonville, Florida. The second cohort began in 2017 with Fayetteville, North Carolina; Little Rock, Arkansas; Savannah, Georgia; and Spartanburg, South Carolina. The second cohort of cities participated in Spartanburg.

Bonds and System colleague Stuart Andreason of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and Melissa Johnson, National Skills Coalition, presented “A Skills Agenda for the South: Implications for States and Communities for Talent Development and Economic Mobility,” which included a preview of a new report and recommendations by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the National Skills Coalition.

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