The SC2 pilot cities were selected through a multi-step process. First, staff from federal agencies participating in the SC2 initiative analyzed data from several public datasets to identify cities experiencing significant economic challenges. Based on these data, they created a composite measure of distress using rates of unemployment, population loss, residential vacancy, poverty, and residential overcrowding. Senior staff from participating agencies then contacted the cities identified as most challenged to gauge their level of interest in participating.
For the cities that expressed an interest in participating, federal staff created Opportunity Assessments Teams (OATs) to work with the cities to identify how a SC2 team might help advance its economic development priorities. OATs were made up of individuals from across the federal agencies participating in SC2 at that time.
The OATs visited each city in March and April 2011. During the visit, the OATs met with local stakeholders to assess the city’s readiness to participate in the pilot and to hear their ideas about how the city might use a SC2 team. The OAT assessment was designed to answer a series of questions:18
- What were the major challenges facing the city and what were its major needs?
- How much need did the city have for a SC2 team?
- How much commitment to the process was expected from the city?
- What capacity gaps at the local level could the SC2 team help the city remedy?
- Was there a good match between the expertise the SC2 team could provide and the needs of the city?
- Did the city have jurisdiction or authority to address its priority areas in concert with the SC2 team?
- How large a SC2 team was needed to assist the city?
- Did the city have relationships with other entities, such as foundations, that could provide assistance similar to that which would be provided by a SC2 team?
- Would a SC2 team be expected to be successful in helping the city address its priority areas?
Following the assessment visit, the OATs developed reports documenting their findings. The reports included recommendations for the work plan and composition of the SC2 team in each site. The reports were then reviewed by DPC staff members and participating agencies for determination of which cities would be good candidates for SC2 teams.
The six cities ultimately chosen to participate in the pilot differed in how they approached the assessment process.
Data used in the pilot city selection process:
- American Community Survey (June 2008 estimates)
- 2000 Census data
- Geolytics Neighborhood Change Database
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics
- U.S. Postal Service Residential Vacancy Survey
For one city in particular, the assessment provided an opportunity to proactively educate the OAT about the city’s challenges and opportunities. That city’s mayor participated in a presentation for the OAT that outlined the city’s vision for economic growth, documented what steps the city was already taking to achieve that vision, and articulated the additional help needed from the federal government. That same city, along with one other, used the assessment process to advocate for the agencies it wanted represented in its SC2 team.
18 These questions are paraphrased from instructions provided to the New Orleans OAT for preparation of the assessment summary report. (These were essentially the same for all agencies)