City leaders wanted to participate in the pilot to address a wide range of barriers to their cities’ economic development. While the pilot was intended to focus on job creation and economic development, city leaders interpreted this mandate very broadly and prioritized a wide range of issues their cities faced. According to the pilot cities’ initial work plans, priorities for the SC2 engagement included the substantive areas of:
- Crime and public safety
- Blight removal
- Workforce development
- Neighborhood and downtown revitalization
- Business development and retention
- Building the capacity of city staff and streamlining local government operations
- Land use planning
- Housing and homelessness
- Energy efficiency, conservation, and sustainability
- Redevelopment and adaptive reuse
- Access to health care
Cities also expressed an interest in improving how they worked with the federal government, including the mitigation of bureaucratic barriers or red tape, more effective use of federal funds, and improved procedures for securing additional federal resources. Beyond specific outcomes cities hoped to accomplish, two cities also expressed the hope that being chosen as a pilot city would draw positive attention to the city and raise its profile, and one city saw it as an opportunity to establish a direct connection to the White House.
While cities welcomed the opportunities made available by participating in the pilot, some cities also expressed concerns about participating. For one city, pride at being chosen as an SC2 city was tempered by embarrassment at being identified as a city that could not address its economic challenges on its own. Two cities expressed concern that SC2 would be yet another top-down initiative in which the federal government dictated what cities needed to do. These two cities, along with a third that feared its selection as a pilot city was a politically motivated decision, were skeptical that the SC2 pilot would actually result in a new type of relationship with the federal government.
Four cities held initial expectations about what could be gained by participating in the pilot that were not consistent with what was allowable within the structure and regulations of the pilot. Two cities expected that the pilot would include additional direct funding for their cities, while another expected the SC2 team to help the city apply for federal grants. Although the pilot did not allow for funding to cities, direct assistance in applying for federal funding, or the relaxing of federal regulations, two cities expected that involvement in the pilot would allow federal agencies to grant waivers, change policies, or provide regulatory flexibility for pilot cities.