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White House Announces "311" Resource for Cities


On May 22, the Obama Administration announced the launch of the National Resource Network (the Network), a pilot program designed to serve as a "311 for Cities." The program will allow communities nationwide to connect to a network of private and public sector experts that will provide local governments with strategic help on key economic issues and aid the turnaround of local economies.

The Network was created out of demand from cities around the country to have access to experts, technical advice, and information that can help them address the mounting challenges of growing inequality, high unemployment, under-performing schools, aging infrastructure, and vacant and blighted properties. For many local governments facing dwindling budgets, especially those facing significant economic shocks, these challenges have made it difficult for cities to effectively attract jobs, retain an educated workforce, grow the middle class, and revitalize their economies. The Network will help cities address these challenges through on-the-ground expert engagements and advisory services, among other forms of assistance.

"The assistance and expertise provided by the National Resource Network will allow cities to maximize and better leverage their existing federal investments, and more strategically plan for their economic future and community development priorities," said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan. "The consortium running the Network will harness decades of private and public sector expertise to work alongside mayors and other community leaders to identify new solutions to longstanding challenges."

More than 50 cities will have direct access to this "311 for Cities" resource, with the ability to receive expert assistance via the Network website. City officials will be able to log on and get best practices and advice from national experts on community development, economic development, operations, budget and other key issues. The "311 for Cities" service will expand to hundreds of cities nationwide over the next year. Other parts of the website, including a curated and searchable resource library, are available to all cities and to the public.

In addition, the consortium will provide on-the-ground support to at least 10 cities during its first year of operation, with dozens of additional cities to be assisted in subsequent years. The team consisting of private and public sector experts will work side-by-side with city leadership for up to 12 months and will assess local needs, provide recommendations, and help cities identify and execute strategies that advance their economic recovery. Three cities (Fall River, Massachusetts; Kansas City, Kansas; and Miami, Florida) and a region encompassing several cities in and around Los Angeles, California (Compton and Lynwood, California) have already begun engagements with teams of experts.

The Network is a three-year, $10 million technical assistance program funded by HUD and being implemented by a group of leading experts from the private and public sectors, including Enterprise Community Partners, Public Financial Management, HR&A Advisors, New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and ICMA. The consortium has committed to fundraising an additional $10 million to leverage the federal investment. The Annenberg Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Surdna Foundation have already committed to partnering with and supporting the Network.

"The National Resource Network will draw on the best ideas of the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to help mayors and city managers overcome challenges and work toward sustainable, long-term economic recovery," said David Eichenthal, executive director of the National Resource Network.

The Network will also provide assistance to communities partnering with the Obama Administration's Promise Zones Initiative as well as cities that will be selected through competition to participate in the Obama Administration's Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.

Read the consortium’s statement on the project launch here.

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