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Economy, Local

SCCF to participate in first national cohort focused on economic recovery

Rebecca Barnabi
virginia business economy
(© michaklootwijk – stock.adobe.com)

The Shenandoah Community Capital Fund will participate in the first cohort of Economic Recovery Corps (ERC) fellows and host communities.

Launched in 2023, ERC funded through a $30 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), and designed to build capacity in some of the hardest-hit and most economically distressed areas across the United States while cultivating the next generation of economic development leaders.

In February 2024, 65 Fellows will commence their two-and-a-half-year field placements with host organizations across the nation, and spearhead catalytic projects that advance new ways of doing economic development to build more resilient, inclusive and equitable economies. The ERC program will officially launch with a four-day training and networking event in Portland, Oregon February 12 to 15, 2024.

ERC was authorized under the CARES Act to address long-standing economic issues in America that surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for historically underserved populations and communities. The communities and regions have undergone economic distress that led to vastly different outcomes that continue to impact economic recovery today. By connecting 65 Fellows with communities across the country to deliver intensive capacity building support for 2.5 years, ERC will help activate regional economic development strategies and promote innovation and knowledge-sharing between urban, rural and tribal areas across the
country to elevate new practices and transform the field of economic development.

ERC is led by International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in partnership with six leading national organizations that represent every facet of America’s economic development landscape.

“This inaugural cohort of the Economic Recovery Corps has the potential to infuse new energy and new opportunities in regional economic development nationwide,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo said. “We can usher in a new era of economic prosperity that leaves no community in America behind by simultaneously centering to the needs of under-resourced regions and investing in the next generation of economic development leaders.”

The 65 selected Host projects are in 44 states and territories, and represent an exciting cross-section of rural, urban and tribal communities. Of the 65 Host sites, 62 percent are rural, 23 percent are mixed (urban, suburban, an d rural), and 15 percent are urban. Hosts reflect the entire community and economic development field spectrum, from city and county government to regional coalitions, economic development organizations, economic development districts (EDDs), and entrepreneurial support organizations.

Nine of the 65 projects are led by Tribes or involve a Tribal organization as a primary partner. The host sites and project needs represent the interconnectedness that economic development has with pressing needs in communities of all sizes, including workforce development, entrepreneurial ecosystem building, housing and childcare, climate resiliency, broadband and access to capital.

Each project receives a dedicated Fellow, fully funded for 2.5 years, who will act as a field catalyst to greater build, strengthen and coordinate relationships and local efforts alongside their host community.

“The Economic Recovery Corps program is unique on many levels,” Nicole Manapol, ERC Senior Program Director at IEDC and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), said. “To balance the immediate needs of a community with longer term capacity needs, we intentionally recruited seasoned practitioners who could add instant value to their host community. We also recruited candidates from diverse backgrounds and sectors, with an emphasis on identifying local talent or those with lived experiences that reflect the cultural context of the 65 host communities. Collectively, these efforts will help to diversify the economic development field with new types of
practitioners while cultivating talent in host geographies to sustain momentum beyond the 30-month fellowship.”

IEDC received more than 500 applications from potential host organizations and more than 1,400 Fellow applications between June through August 2023, and conducted thousands of hours of interviews alongside ERC program partners between July and November to select the final cohort of 65 fellows and hosts. Sixty-nine percent of Fellows are women, and 54 percent identify as individuals of color. Fellows come with significant professional experience (more than 6 to 15 years) across a variety of sectors including planning, entrepreneurship, community and economic development, public administration, marketing and rural development.

The program is already attracting the attention of philanthropic partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which awarded IEDC $1 million in December 2023 to examine how long-term investments in capacity building, like the ERC program model, impact economic mobility in under resourced and historically underserved communities.

Anyone interested in supporting the program or a project may contact IEDC. Program updates are available via a newsletter.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.