The economic situation over the last few months has been tumultuous. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac entered government conservatorship. The potential failures of Bear Stearns and insurance giant AIG required large-scale intervention to minimize market disruption. And the Fed introduced aggressive new liquidity measures to address the seemingly daily changes in economic markets. This national and global economic crisis hit close to home for professionals working in community economic development. The entire field has been affected by tightening credit and capital markets. Individuals, neighborhoods and cities alike continue to face difficult challenges to finding financing for community economic development initiatives. In September, community development organizations, financial institutions, private developers and representatives from state and local governments gathered in Conway, Ark., to discuss the implications.
Community developers are innovators by nature—or maybe out of necessity. For many decades, they have worked to raise awareness, build consensus and improve social and economic conditions in communities, often with few resources.
The importance of the health sector frequently surfaces in discussions surrounding community development. In many ways, hospitals and health-care organizations contribute to the stability and growth of the local economy.
Access to capital, particularly equity capital, is a barrier faced by many entrepreneurs looking to start and expand businesses in low-income and rural areas. However, these are the very areas where innovation and business expansion may have a significant impact on the health and vitality of local economies.