Evaluation of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Teams Pilot: Final Report. A2.3.3 SC2 Team Member Activities

08/25/2014

Implementation of the lengthy work plan began in early 2012. The city and the SC2 Team worked to tackle many of the items, some of which were fairly discrete and transactional and quickly resolved.

Others were large and required multi-year efforts to address. Still others were dropped as parties realized that it would be difficult to gain traction.

In the end, key SC2 Team activities included a large ongoing effort to improve the workforce development system, a focused effort through NASA to support area manufacturing, and dedicated resources from HUD, EPA, and others to tackle a variety of more discrete tasks. The following section describes these key SC2 Team activities.

Coordinating the Workforce Development System

Through a partnership between the DOL team member and the county WIB, the SC2 Team’s presence catalyzed a substantial effort to improve the workforce development system in the city and county. Early in her time in Cleveland, the DOL SC2 Team was asked by the WIB to conduct a scan of the local workforce to help the group understand issues of the next economy, the skills mismatch in Cleveland, and priorities to include in a strategic plan for regional workforce development. Based on the SC2 Team’s research, the WIB director and WIB chair proposed a larger planning effort to identify strategies for improving the area workforce system. The WIB created the Strategic Workforce Alignment Group (SWAG), bringing together local leaders to identify specific actions that would improve the alignment of workforce employment, training, and education programs with the needs of employers for skilled workers in key sectors. The diverse group of SWAG members met monthly over a six-month period with the leadership, obtaining guidance and support from the DOL team member. The SWAG issued a report with a series of recommendations in early 2013 and the WIB has taken on responsibility for implementation, instituting several subcommittees to move the recommendations forward on multiple fronts.

While the SWAG was the primary undertaking of the DOL team member, she convened two other groups of stakeholders to better coordinate services to specific populations:

  • The Cuyahoga County Veterans’ Employment Transition Team, a collaborative effort to improve employment results for veterans
  • A group that included the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, MAGNET, Cuyahoga Community College, Case Western Reserve University, and NASA to discuss the workforce needs of the emerging additive manufacturing industry, with a goal of aligning current efforts to prepare workers for the growing field.

Expanding Regional Manufacturing

The SC2 pilot in Cleveland built a new relationship between NASA and local stakeholders. While Cleveland has long been home to a NASA research facility, few connections have been made between NASA’s strong engineering talent and the region’s extensive base of manufacturers. Through the SC2 team, introductions and partnerships were developed between NASA and MAGNET, an organization devoted to increasing the competitiveness of the area’s manufacturing base. One key outcome of this partnership was that NASA developed and led an Adopt a City program, which served as a “technology transfer pilot.”

For this pilot, MAGNET identified 10 small- or medium-sized manufacturers that had a product or production problem. NASA then made its engineers available to provide technical assistance on these issues. The city’s economic development department made $400,000 available in loans for companies to implement NASA’s solutions. Based on the success of the initial round of implementation, plans are being made to implement a second round of Adopt a City.

Targeted Technical Assistance

The SC2 team also provided assistance with discrete tasks in other areas. In particular, city stakeholders looked to the SC2 team for assistance on a number of policies or regulations administered by HUD and EPA that the city considered barriers to achieving its goals related to property vacancy and  abandonment. HUD and EPA team members worked with city and community partners to try to mediate these barriers. Examples of this work are described below.

  • The Cuyahoga Land Bank worked with the local EPA and HUD team members to modify the EPA’s policy on demolition regulations related to asbestos. Although the SC2 team was successful in connecting the Land Bank to EPA, no policy change or flexibility on the regulation was achieved.
  • The HUD team member acted at the request of the city to gain more flexibility in using Community Development Block Grant funding and to remove a deed restriction for a land reuse and development project. Through SC2, HUD was able to issue waivers for this purpose and the project moved forward as planned.

Cleveland also looked to USACE for technical assistance in relation to its port. One of the three original SC2 team goals in Cleveland was for the Port Authority and USACE to work cooperatively to address barriers to future dredging of the Cuyahoga River. The city was concerned that by 2014, annual dredging needed to maintain a viable port would be halted since the current locations for depositing the sediment would be exhausted. While the Port Authority had identified new approaches, it needed the support and assistance of USACE to carry out its plan. During the pilot, the Port and USACE did not make progress on identifying or implementing new methods. Stakeholder interviews suggest that little changed in the relationship between USACE and the Port due to the SC2 pilot. Going forward, USACE will continue discussions with the Port regarding alternative solutions.

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