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Accelerating Economic Mobility Through Promise Zone Partnerships

Posted by USDA Office of Communications in Conservation
Feb 21, 2017

In 2014, President Obama identified the first five communities to be part of the Promise Zone initiative -- a new placed-based effort to leverage investments, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities and improve the quality of life in some of our country’s most challenged communities. As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to Rural America and our tribal areas, eastern Kentucky Highlands and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma were part of the first named Promise Zone communities.  Yesterday, the Administration announced eight additional new Promise Zone communities including one rural area in the Low Country of South Carolina, and one tribal community, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Through Promise Zone effort, the Obama Administration is working across all channels and with partners to address some of the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Luke Tate, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Mobility co-authored a blog on how Promise Zone partnerships help to increase economic mobility in the communities they serve.

Cross-posted on the White House blog:

Accelerating Economic Mobility Through Promise Zone Partnerships

By Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council & Luke Tate, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Mobility

Today, in long-struggling pockets of major cities and small suburban towns cut off from regional economic engines, in the Low Country of South Carolina and on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the Administration is announcing eight new Promise Zone partnerships to fuel the revitalization of high-poverty communities.

In these Promise Zones, we will support locally developed plans that leverage private-sector investment to create jobs, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunity, and reduce violent crime.

Our nation’s economy is in the midst of a strong recovery, but many of these communities have struggled for decades to build resilient middle-class economies. The Promise Zone approach to accelerating revitalization and improving economic mobility was launched in the first five communities by President Obama last year, when he emphasized that communities making the greatest progress “bring together local government and nonprofits and businesses and teachers and parents around a shared goal” and “[hold] themselves accountable by delivering measurable results.”

That’s what we have seen in the first five Promise Zones, where strong partnerships and use of evidence and data are yielding early results.

In the Los Angeles Promise Zone, work that began with the President’s Promise Neighborhoods educational initiative has increased college preparedness among high school graduates by 63 percent, now exceeding the city school district average – and new entrepreneurship training is now expanding economic opportunities for low-income workers, including immigrants and refugees.

In the San Antonio Promise Zone, efforts launched through Promise Neighborhoods and Choice Neighborhoods helped to increase the local high school’s graduation rates from 46 percent to 84 percent, and now an equity investment fund is growing local small businesses, and at-risk and reentering youth are gaining access to new job skills in growing sectors like health care.

It’s increasingly clear how important these successes are to fueling the American Dream – that any person’s hard work can lead to prosperity and economic security.

Emerging research from economist Raj Chetty and collaborators has shown how profoundly the opportunities in a child’s community shape their prospects for economic mobility, and social scientist Robert Putnam has described the increasingly strong ties between a parent’s educational attainment and a child’s access to the resources and supports they need to succeed. Local leaders in Promise Zones across the country are improving the community characteristics that fuel economic mobility, and investing in children whose talents would lie untapped without better opportunities in their communities.

In addition to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Low Country of South Carolina, today’s announcement included new Promise Zones located in Camden, Hartford, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and St. Louis. Each of these communities has built strong partnerships between business, civic, and government leaders committed to shared goals and strategies with strong evidence for expanding educational and economic opportunity. We will work alongside those leaders, providing on-the-ground partnership and access to the resources they need to carry out their plans.

For more information about these new Promise Zones, see our fact sheet. Over the next year and a half, we’ll announce seven more Promise Zones around the country to help build on this Administration’s commitment to build stronger ladders of opportunity to the middle class. Visit our website to learn more about these and other efforts to build ladders of opportunity.

Category/Topic: Conservation