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How Cities Can Grow: The Maker Movement

February 24, 2016

This report explores the emergence of the maker movement within a selection of major U.S. cities. The maker movement has developed in a variety of different environments, including makerspaces, hackerspaces, tech workshops and fabrication laboratories. Data and information fueling this project were derived from interviews with influential points of contact in major cities where the movement is growing. Survey questions focused on four primary sections presented in this report: (1) characteristics, (2) growth, (3) government policies and (4) challenges. Our analysis provides insights into common trends and notable differences examined within the four categories listed above. The characteristics section focuses on the driving forces behind the movement, the people involved in the movement and the definition of the movement. The section on commercialization aims to establish the scale of involvement in order to determine whether the movement had the potential to increase local U.S. manufacturing. The policy section details the involvement of local governments in implementing program policies that help grow or inhibit the movement. In particular, it was important to determine the policies that were most beneficial to those involved in the movement. Ultimately the goal was to determine how other local governments could implement policies with a proven record of success in their respective cities. City narratives are also provided as individual case studies on the maker movement.

Citites And Unequal Recovery: Local Economic Conditions Survey 2015

August 12, 2015

Even as economic conditions in cities have improved in the years since the Great Recession, a new study from the National League of Cities (NLC) found that many factors -- including lack of affordable housing, poverty, and skill and achievement gaps -- are impeding the long-term economic sustainability of cities. "Cities and Unequal Recovery," an analysis based on a survey of more than 250 city officials from cities of all sizes, uncovers dual realities in cities, where even as conditions improve, persistent challenges prevent the benefits of this growth from reaching many. The survey found that nearly all cities saw economic improvement in the past year, with 28 percent of city officials reporting vast improvement and 64 percent reporting slight improvement. Drivers of growth -- including new business startups, business expansions, property values and retail sector health -- starkly contrast with the reality of many residents on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Skills gaps, lack of affordable housing and the rising demand for basic needs, like food and shelter, reveal that while economic conditions are improving for some, they are worsening for others.

City Open Data Policies

November 12, 2014

The capture and analysis of data is transforming the 21st Century. As society becomes more data driven, data has the ability to drive the bottom line for private companies and help the public sector to define where and how services can best be delivered. In City Open Data Policies: Learning by Doing, the National League of Cities identifies how cities can take advantage of the opportunities presented by open data initiatives.SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONSLeadership: Political support stands out as one of the key requirements to implementing a successful open data project.Appropriate Legislation: Enacting legislation or formal policies is a crucial step toward ensuring the growth and sustainability of open data portals. Funding: Open data initiatives do not require high levels of funding. It is, however, important that the programs have their own budget line items where resources are specifically allocated. Technical Approach: Leading U.S. cities rely on commercial platforms that facilitate the implementation of open data initiatives, provide technical expertise, and ensure 24/7 customer support, often at a lower cost than providing these services in-house. Stakeholder Involvement: Open data is a two-way process. It is, therefore, essential to encourage participation and engagement among multiple stakeholders including: community members; non-profits; universities; the press; businesses; city departments; and other levels of government. Many cities adopt a flexible, and usually informal, approach to interact with the stakeholders. Measuring Success: Developing evaluation tools should be an integral part of any future open data policies.

Big Ideas for Small Business Report

May 19, 2014

Big Ideas for Small Business is a national peer network led by the National League of Cities (NLC) that aims to accelerate efforts by local governments to support small businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.  This direct peer-to-peer engagement expands the capacity of city staff to explore common challenges, share proven strategies, and collaborate on new approaches for creating a more business-friendly city.  The Big Ideas for Small Business toolkit discusses important strategies for how local leaders can be better advocates for small businesses. Our report provides guidance on creating ecosystems that support small business growth; reorganizing city resources to better meet the needs of small businesses; and providing business owners with access to new sources of capital. Specific strategies highlighted in this report explain how to:Connect Small Businesses to Information and ResourcesEstablish a Small Business Resource Center Advocate for Small Businesses via Community-Led Councils or CommitteesProactively Engage the Local Business CommunityProvide Platforms for NetworkingCreate Incubator SpacesCelebrate Successful BusinessesDevelop One-Stop-Shops and Express Lanes at City Hall Streamline City Regulations and the Inspection ProcessHelp Small Businesses Build a Web PresenceSupport Microlending and CrowdfundingEncourage Local Small Businesses to Bid for City Contracts