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What will happen if the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons can’t fly? It’s a possibility: An arctic plunge is descending across the eastern seaboard as Thanksgiving approaches, promising blistering winter winds that will batter the city, and could force Macy’s to ground the balloons.
If the balloons do fly (which is more than likely), they’ll be continuing a longstanding holiday tradition that’s nonetheless costly and tumultuous for the city that hosts it. It’s been 92 years since the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day (then dubbed Christmas) Parade first marched through the streets of Manhattan, and as millions flock to the parade itself, and millions more tune in from afar, it’s worth looking at its impacts on the ground in New York City.
Macy’s is famously sheepish when it comes to discussing the cost. For years, the company has put on the parade without disclosing the money involved. “Macy’s views the Parade as a gift to the City of New York and the nation, and like any good gift, you cut off the price tag when you give it, so we keep to that tradition as well,” a parade spokesperson told NBC New York in 2013.
But a 2016 analysis by Ebates, a cash-rewards shopping program dubbed as “sketchy” and “legit” depending on who you ask, estimated the costs for the company at around $12 million dollars every year. A big part of that cost is just the balloons, which Ebates determined to use between 300,000 and 700,000 cubic feet of Helium (making Macy’s the second biggest consumer of the noble gas, behind the U.S. Armed Forces), and require at least 50 paid handlers each. Add in another $2 million in costumes, up to $3 million in floats, and $140,000 in taxes, and the bill starts to really climb. But, as the analysis shows, corporate sponsors are shouldering a lot of that burden.
For locals, the parade can pose a special kind of frustration, too: streets and sidewalks are cordoned off along the entire parade route, and heightened security measures include closing off central subway stations around the parade route. For a slice of Manhattan, traversing the island on Thanksgiving may just seem impossible. The city’s tourism office cautions parade-goers to rely on public transit—private parking might cost you hundreds of dollars, if you can find any—and suggests attendees arrive at 6 a.m. to beat some of the biggest crowds.
Such a huge, prominent gathering of people also requires a security presence to match. The parade is the New York Police Department’s biggest security event of the year—including 1,000 officers, rooftop snipers, bomb sniffing dogs, sandbag-filled trucks blocking intersections, and more, according to CBS New York.
Though NYPD doesn’t release specific costs associated with the event, it runs in the millions. In fact, police costs can be so high that in 2010, the city ordered the parade to cut its route by 25 percent and limit itself to five hours. At the time, the department claimed these cuts would save them $3.1 million.
The whole endeavor, of course, is justified by tradition and the amount of economic activity it brings to the city. Attracting 3.5 million revelers, and reaching 50 million more on TV, the parade is a beautiful opening salvo to commercial Christmas, as the throngs descend on Macy’s eponymous trip down corporate lane in advance of Black Friday. Still, not all the shops see the benefits. “Every time there’s a parade, we hope to have more business, but it always turns out to be slow,” Easy Sprit Shoes manager Catidia Santiagoshe told the New York Times in 2009. “Everyone just comes in here to use the bathroom, or they walk in and walk out.”
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Gobble gobble: Thanksgiving, as much as any holiday, is rooted in a sense of place. The paths home might stay the same, though your mode of travel may vary. Family, friends, and food may gather together for turkey year after year, but it’s often then that you realize how far flung everyone has become.
Just the act of returning home can reveal changes quickly. Last year, my childhood mall near Gettysburg showed the fallout of the so-called retail apocalypse in the strangest of ways: with a bird sanctuary replacing what once was an American Eagle outfitters. That’s a less subtle example, but parts of my town that I took for granted—the local music store, the favorite bar, the nearby coffee shop—have given way to one change or another since I moved away, and the buildings still house the memories that remind you that those places matter. Readers, we’re curious: If you’re traveling home this week, what changes do you notice around town? Drop us a line to tell us what they mean to you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll be off for the holiday, and will return to your inbox on Monday. Until then, we wish those of you in the U.S. a happy Thanksgiving and remind you, as always, to be grateful for Gritty.
More on CityLab
What We’re Reading
Maintenance and care: fixing a broken world (Places Journal)
Your online shopping is polluting this small town (Curbed)
Unsurprisingly, Amazon employees join the Long Island City land rush (Wall Street Journal)
The classist vilification of the Black Friday shopper (Vox)
HUD tallied numerous violations in New York City public housing. It still gave passing grades. (ProPublica)
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The news that Amazon decided to split its new headquarters between New York City and Washington, D.C.—two big East Coast metros already equipped with roaring economic engines—came as little surprise to urbanists who’d been keeping a close eye on the year-long HQ2 pageant. Instead of dropping their “prosperity bomb” on a struggling town that would have been utterly transformed by an influx of high-salaried workers, the tech behemoth picked a pair of superstar coastal cities already laden with them. For any number of business reasons, that decision made a lot of sense.
As CityLab’s Richard Florida wrote in his take on a Brookings Institution report that came out earlier this week, this was a textbook demonstration of “winner-take-all urbanism.” That report details the alarming dimensions of the growing gulf between America’s boomtowns and its “left-behind places”: Just 2 percent of the country’s biggest, showiest metros have enjoyed the bulk of employment gains since 2008. The rest are largely languishing—unable to recover after repeated blows of de-industrialization and globalization.
The Amazon sideshow may have thrown a spotlight on this phenomenon, but it’s hardly new: These two groups of cities started pulling away from each other starting the mid-1980s. Until recently, however, the response to the problem from economists and policy wonks has been, well, dispirited. “Even when there was any discussion of policy, it was mostly around how little policy would work and how it would all sink into graft and not be effective,” said Mark Muro, policy director of Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program and an author of the paper. “But now we have a very, very stark problem and many across the economic spectrum are acknowledging that.”
So what’s the fix? CityLab caught up with Muro and his co-author Clara Hendrickson to chat about strategies to bridge what seems like an insurmountable gap among American cities.
How are you both framing these solutions?
Hendrickson: For a long time in the policymaking and economic communities, there’s been this false tradeoff between maximizing equity on the one hand and ensuring regionally balanced growth and maximizing efficiency on the other side by supporting growth and agglomeration hubs [such as Silicon Valley]. But as we point out in the report, agglomeration on its own will not spread opportunity across regions. And this is a problem not only for the places left behind but also for the places that are doing so well today.
We think that spatial divergence hurts everyone—people in places that are left behind where productive firms are unwilling to locate and the super-successful cities that are dealing with congestion and expensive housing markets. That’s why we see the need for the set of policy interventions and actions that we lay out [in the report], which respect efficiency within superstar cities as good for the economy in the aggregate, but also tries to spread growth across a wider swath of places.
You mention that the first step is to review some popular approaches that have so far not worked. Could you give examples?
Muro: Top of mind is the idea that somehow places could change their lot by attracting from elsewhere a big whale of a economic catch, like Amazon. So we have this massive industry built up around subsidies to encourage business location. It’s extremely clear that this has a terrible record. We’re spending substantial amounts of money. [Economist] Tim Bartik says at least $40 billion. We think that’s a low bar: So some $40 to $60 billion are being spent by the municipalities and states on these attractions that don’t often really help them. Meanwhile for a nation, this is just a reallocation of business activity from one place to another. So that’s very expensive and doesn’t work.
Hendrickson: Folks in Europe have been much more sensitive to the need for balances in the economy and in the political system. But the European policy approach has largely failed, too, because the places that are the largest beneficiaries of territorial cohesion funds from the European Union are the places that have really embraced nationalism and anti-European sentiments. We think this is because most of the investments have been targeted towards physical infrastructure, which has led to creating a lot of beautiful roads in some of these lagging regions but has not helped put these places on a path toward self-sustaining growth. Austria, Hungary, Poland, and some of the newer member states, for instance, have thousands miles of cycling tracks and new bridges. But infrastructure is only one input to economic growth.
The European Union also has a very top-down approach to administration territorial cohesion funding. They don’t really include a lot of the regional administrations that are probably best-equipped and most eligible to decide what places will need to jump-start growth. Those bases are sort of left out of the governance equation.
OK, so neither the U.S. nor the E.U. has fully figured out this modern economic dilemma. What are some basics that need to be put in place before non-superstar cities can pursue a growth agenda?
Muro: We think that certain aspects of the modern economy are really shaping economic outcomes so we should take them into account. One of them is this is that we have a profoundly digital economy and it will only become more so. So a starting point absolutely has to be skills solutions—vastly improved 21st century skills for everyone and in every place is now a baseline. We have to be serious about this, in one way or another.
It’s also clear, relatedly, that this digital economy requires being online and I think it’s largely thought that somehow we mostly dealt with the broadband challenge—that we’re finished working on that. Well, research from my colleague Adie Tomer shows gaping holes in coverage—and especially, speed—of linkage. That is profoundly spatial 21st century infrastructure that still has to be dealt with.
Hendrickson: We also talk about places that we call “capital deserts,”—that have insufficient funding to support local business and the local startup community.
The conversation in the banking world has really focused on the dynamics of the post-recession world. A lot of folks have been pointing to overly burdensome Dodd-Frank regulations as responsible for the pullback in small lending, especially in less densely populated parts of the country. But as we show in our report, this has been a problem going back to the mid-1990s, with the steep decline in the number of small community banks in the U.S. started due to regulatory changes at that time. That gave rise to much more top-heavy industry and that became a real problem in a recession. After the financial crash, big banks started pulling back their lending to small business. A lot of banks stopped giving loans below the $100,000 threshold completely.
Big banks that rely on quantitative standardized approach to evaluate loan applicants were also overlooking folks that would have previously benefited from the interpersonal dynamics at play when they go to their local community bank. We also know some structural problems: Small business lending is really expensive, and there aren’t that many ways to offset the risk of lending to small businesses.
Neither Mark or I are experts at financial engineering, but we start as folks who are more knowledgeable in this area to make some proposals that make it easier for banks give loans to small businesses. We also consider some non-bank, alternative sources of lending, namely venture capital, which has been incredibly geographically concentrated to the coast. We detail what we call a “fund of funds”—investors giving to regional venture capital consortiums—to folks who are being knowledgeable about the local business climate so that they can best make decisions about where that funding should go.
Muro: We really don’t think that the capital deserts reflect deserts of intellectual enterprise, entrepreneurial bent, and talent. There’s something awry in this system.
In order to spark growth, you mention the need to balance both place-centric and people-centric strategies. What do these look like?
Muro: I’ll talk right off about what we’re calling the need to support the emergence of very significant growth poles. This approach is about aiding and abetting growth closer to more of the places left behind.
We now have this very segregated superstar map in which the most vibrant places are mostly along the coasts and we have a vast kind of territorial center of the country that is filled with some up-and-coming places, but a lot of spaces that are pretty moribund and lacking real vitality. We doubt that as a nation, we’re going to be able to catalyze growth in the 400 small or medium-sized metropolitan areas and even micropolitan America. But we think that if we were to catalyze—to really stimulate—the growth and dynamism of, say, a dozen places closer to many of those communities, we might really change the map of the country.
So select 10 to a dozen places that already that are up-and-coming in the region, that have strong technology communities, vibrant startup communities—and importantly, a research university—and try to help them move to the next echelon to become truly significant regional hubs.
We think there’s a lot of underutilized people, underutilized talent, underutilized universities, underutilized entrepreneurial skills, underutilized airports, and underutilized housing stock. This would help us begin to tap into a lot more of the talent and skills in the country. That’s about getting growth out to more people.
Hendrickson: The mobility strategy, I feel, has long been the choice strategy of free-market conservatives who think that the solution to more regionally-balanced growth is to ensure perfect mobility in the labor market.
Ours is an endorsement of that idea that there needs to be support for relocation to ensure that workers are moving to places where there are greater opportunities. But that’s not the only solution. Right now, there is a little bit of a mismatch between mobility and opportunity—where people are moving to aren’t always the places with opportunity. So we talk about ways to increase affordability in prosperous regions.
We also acknowledge that humans are not perfect economic actors. and are often motivated by things that aren’t strictly economic. A lot of people want to live with their family and stay in places where they grew up. And so we support an alternative to long-distance moves, which is short-distance commuting that will allow people to stay in their home communities and access economic opportunities in nearby locations so that they can have the best of both world. This comes out of the growth poles idea that Mark just outlined.
Muro: Because there’s not been much focus on this, the solutions aren’t as mature as they arguably should be at this stage. We think that we’re going to have to embark on some experiments—ultimately pretty big ones as this is a big problem. We’re trying to be humble about the state of what is truly known and fully evaluated and encourage a period of giving new ideas their due and trying to think trying to see what works.
The inequality between American cities seems so entrenched and determined by global forces. I wonder how optimistic you feel about them?
Muro: There has to be a humility about the sheer scale of the dynamics at hand. Our work suggests this is deeply tangled with the entire structure of a globalized economic order. So there’s all of that be concerned about. With that said, I think we see a lot of vibrancy in this next echelon of cities that are not in the very short list of these coastal superstars. They are committing themselves over a 20 year period to very serious strategic approaches to improve their economies, and showing real success. Think of Indianapolises of the world, the Ashevilles, the Columbuses. Then there’s the whole list of university towns. We see things that are working. There are places that have excellent leadership and are working on improving their lot. So I think that there are possibilities.
Hendrickson: Given the structure of our political system, I do think that there are incentives for the Democrats to target regions that have been left behind. Those places are the same places that enjoy outsized political power in our electoral system. Conservatives, for their part, have successfully tapped into a lot of that discontent but whether or not they’re actually going to be able to deliver anything to these places remains to be seen. There is a need now to reject the politics, which is about mobilizing the geographic base on either side, and really speaking across the region to stitch the country back together economically and politically.
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Route 66 has been forgotten. The once vital artery connecting Chicago and Los Angeles—and hundreds of towns in between—was America’s main street. John Steinbeck famously dubbed it “the mother road.”
Passing through and bringing life to towns and cities across the heartland, Route 66 captured the imagination, delivering tourists, families and misbegotten souls from one end of the country to the other.
Photojournalist Edward Keating was one of those souls. He first traveled the length of Route 66 in 1977, well into the highway’s decline. The road and the towns it snaked through began their downward trend in 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act. Route 66 was officially decommissioned as a highway in 1985.
Bigger, faster roads were built to bypass America’s main street. The towns along the way suffered, stumbled and ultimately shuttered. “I didn’t go to Route 66,” Keating told CityLab. “My ass just wound up there.”
Keating’s first journey through America’s Main Street was filled with pain. He was hyped on drugs, he didn’t have a job or future and he didn’t know what to do.
“It was a blank canvas for thoughts and dreams and hopes and disappointments and you name it,” he said. The promise of California proved disappointing, and he ended up, as he says, reaching rock bottom in his Uncle’s Santa Monica basement.
He returned to Main Street 20 years later in the early 2000s as a photojournalist with a mission to capture the forgotten towns and hapless people that continue to occupy old Route 66’s sidewalks. “I’m always surprised that nobody had taken this road on photographically as more than just 2,400 miles of amusement park with one roadside attraction after another,” Keating told CityLab over the phone last month.
He’s referring to the multiple , showcasing nearly 100 photos that capture the bleak current manifestations of the old highway.
Even its rosy past has a dark undercurrent. Most of America’s Main Street diners, motels and other establishments played played host to rampant segregation. For black Americans, the Mother Road was rife with danger.
But it’s not all bad news today. Several efforts to preserve or revitalize sections of the historic highway are underway. One aims to reconfigure much of it as a National Historic Trail, which could bring federal financing, a new emphasis on tourism and more. Another will turn swaths of it into a bicycle path.
Neither solution, however, can quickly or effectively restore all 2,400 miles of the old highway to its former glory. For now, the downtrodden subjects and morose nature of Keating’s photos will remain Route 66’s primary inhabitants.
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Amazon surprised almost no one last week when it announced that it would split its “HQ2” between two neighborhoods: New York’s Long Island City and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City. Or, make that Northern Virginia’s National Landing—a neighborhood that basically nobody in the Washington area had ever heard of before. That part, at least, raised some eyebrows.
National Landing, in essence, represents an aggressive rebranding campaign from Amazon and its new partners in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. The name was chosen by local economic groups and the area’s lead developer, JBG Smith, who have been working on creating an overarching brand for three existing neighborhoods: Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard. (To complicate things more, the “National Landing” brand is intended to encompass those three neighborhoods, but they’ll each retain their distinct names, too. So Amazon will be in both National Landing and Crystal City.)
For all the disdain and jokes it’s gotten, branding expert Geoff Cook thinks National Landing is here to stay. Such is the power of a tech behemoth.
“It meets the criteria that you have a very powerful critical mass behind it constantly using ‘National Landing’ in all of their communications and in everything they do,” said Cook, founding partner of the New York-based branding company Base Design, which works on neighborhood rebranding campaigns.
That critical mass will come from Amazon and its PR team, and from a good handful of the 25,000 employees that will come from outside the region. It will come from the name’s creators, who came up with the name to “erase the jurisdictional lines“ among the three existing neighborhoods in Northern Virginia. It will likely come from local business owners who are eager to embrace the change. That’s not to mention the onslaught of media attention that’s more or less put the region on the national map as National Landing.
Rebranding a city or neighborhood to make it trendier is a tricky business, and more efforts fail than succeed. The name itself is tied to an identity that people build around their neighborhoods, says Claudia Coulton, the founding director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University. “The naming of neighborhoods sometimes can change gradually, but there are situations when an external event results in a fast or overwhelming change that people don’t feel that they have control over,” she said. That’s when it becomes contentious, as old-timers see it as an encroachment of their cultural identity.
In Washington, D.C., for example, a neighborhood group’s push to rename a thriving commercial part of the already well-defined Adams Morgan neighborhood as “SoMo,” mimicking a New York City neighborhood naming convention that’s has spread across the country, became the subject of ridicule by Washingtonians. And you’re unlikely to recognize the southern part of NYC’s Harlem neighborhood as SoHa, a moniker that not only received backlash from longtime residents but also spurred a state senate bill that would prohibit real estate companies from renaming traditionally recognized neighborhoods without consulting the community first.
Whether a new name takes hold, Coulton said, in part depends on how different social networks within an area organize to support or oppose it, and their relative sizes. She called the push for National Landing, with the backing of a giant like Amazon, a unique event compared to past efforts.
In general, real estate developers and local officials rename neighborhoods for three main reasons, Cook says: to bring in business and financial investment, to encourage tourism, and to foster civic pride. If you measure success that way, the team behind National Landing can look for inspiration just a few miles away, in the D.C. neighborhood known as NoMa, short for “North of Massachusetts Avenue.” The name was chosen back in 2011, and seven years later, it has stuck. The area itself has gone from being mostly empty lots or warehouses to having trendy coffee shops, luxury high-rise apartment buildings, and retail. All in all, the reimagining of that area came with $120 million in public and private investments.
In other places, it’s not just about the name. To really create a brand around it, some neighborhoods call in experts like Cook. In 2015, his firm led a massive—and largely successful—campaign to rebrand New York City’s Meatpacking District in a way that highlighted its transformation from gritty to fashion-forward, but still reflected the locals’ pride of its history (and, it should be noted, retained the neighborhood’s name). “There was a fondness for the past, but an equal appreciation for everything that has come and will come,” Cook said, “from nightlife to a district that houses fashion, culture, technology, and hospitality.”
The National Landing brand may have staying power because of the dearth of civic pride around that area today, at least in Crystal City, where Amazon’s headquarters will be and where much of the transformation will happen. “There hasn’t been that sort of historical identification of residence,” Coulton said. “It was never a cultural entity.” In fact, when the Washington Post interviewed local business owners about Amazon’s move, one longtime owner of a local strip club told the paper, “Whatever Jeff Bezos wants is fine with me.”
And when I asked Cook what he thinks of when he hears Crystal City, he replied: “Corporate.” It’s not hard to see why: Currently, the neighborhood is known for its quiet nights, and abundance of beige buildings erected for a workforce that has largely left the area, leaving 2 million of the 10 million square feet of office space empty.
In contrast, renderings from JBG Smith paint Crystal City as a trendy place you might actually want to put on a postcard: sleek glass towers that light up the skyline and overlook vibrant plazas and bustling retail centers. JBG Smith also plans to build at least 750 multifamily residential units in anticipation of Amazon’s move next year, according to its website.
It’s the kind of vibe Crystal City Business Improvement District has always wanted for the neighborhood, which is why CCBID president and executive director Tracy Gabriel called Amazon’s move a tremendous win. “It’s is going to help accelerate the transformation already underway and reinforce our effort to create a vibrant city center and a mix-used urban neighborhood,” she said. Already, it’s been making Crystal City a tech and innovation hub, acquiring a handful of startups, accelerators, and nonprofits, as well as Lyft’s regional headquarters.
“Branding is all about perception,” Cook said, “and the name is a starting point as to what one wants that perception to be.” He calls the name National Landing a smart move in that it allows Amazon to expand its investment to an entire area. In fact, “I, being from New York City, immediately associate National Landing with Washington, D.C.—overnight,” he said. “If you are perceived as being linked to Washington, D.C., as opposed to a lesser known city, then that perception [makes the region] more inclined to lure top talent.”
Whether Crystal City will become just another Amazon city remains to be seen. Gabriel emphasizes that each neighborhood of National Landing will retain its distinct character, and that name is not intended to replace “Crystal City.” But she also noted that keeping the neighborhood’s distinctness will be “a balancing act” going forward.
If all goes as planned, officials and Amazon are betting on National Landing to scream “cool and contemporary”—drowning out the grumbling of dissatisfied locals on Twitter. “National Landing,” as one of DCist’s slogan suggestions reads, “Who Says You Can’t Force A Nickname?”
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A year after Colorado saw a record 1,175 suicides and an all-time high number of drug overdoses, according to the reports that that network is facing an overhaul, raising concerns that the clinics could end up fragmented.)
For Caring 4 Denver, the local touch was part of the appeal. Besides local healthcare providers and hospitals, the campaign was supported by the Colorado chapters of national healthcare groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and NARAL, as well as social justice groups and unions.
The city revenue will go to a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a board including representatives from law enforcement, hospitals, city agencies, and residents in recovery for addiction or mental health. They will direct how the money is spent, dividing it among four buckets: mental illness, addiction, criminal justice, and social factors like housing and unemployment.
That walls off the money from being spent elsewhere, but also means it is controlled by people who know how best to spend the money, said Carl Clark, president and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver.
“In a smaller sandbox, there’s a lot of things we understand about the needs and the priorities,” Clark said. “We know the neighborhoods where there are higher suicide rates, where there are higher rates of depression. We know the areas where access to care may not be so good. So we can focus our attention on specific areas where we can do the most.”
For example, Clark said the East Colfax neighborhood, a historically underinvested area, has seen worse health rates than surrounding neighborhoods, making it an ideal place to target money. That sort of detail could get lost in a state-level program.
At that level, California has been a national leader since the 2004 passage of Proposition 63, a 1-percent income tax on millionaires to fund mental health. A report from the Rand Corporation found the revenue had expanded care access for 130,000 young people in Los Angeles County, many of them from poor or minority communities.
But the wide scope has created some problems. A Kaiser Health News report found that a lack of standards across counties meant that some residents had trouble finding government services to help them. And a state audit this summer found that some counties weren’t spending as much as they could because of confusion about how much revenue they should save. Auditor Elaine Howle wrote that “poor oversight” from the state was “troubling” given the needs, and the state has promised to write better regulations.
Herod, the state representative, said the smaller scale of Caring 4 Denver will help ensure that all new money is spent wisely. “We can put a therapist in every school and know that they’re being effective. We don’t know what that would look like on the state level,” she said. “Locals know the local community best.”
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While much of the spotlight this November has been on electoral outcomes, Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s two new headquarters are also in the headlights. Like citizens, businesses also have the power to take action in a way that will positively affect society. Will one of the most lucrative companies in the world be a force for positive change in its new communities?
When Greyston Bakery opened in Yonkers, New York, in 1982, the city had the highest per capita homeless population in the country. Our founder Bernie Glassman who died earlier this month, said, “If we don’t offer something back to the community when we create a business, we’re only taking from the community,” and from those ideals our successful Open Hiring Model was born.
It’s time to focus our attention on corporate America to see what role companies and leaders are willing to play in invoking positive change.
A recent study by Edelman concludes that 64 percent of people want CEOs to take the lead on change rather than waiting for government or non-profits to initiate it. CEO activism is becoming a real expectation. As ever, the economy remains a high priority for the nation and with the GDP growing and unemployment shrinking, corporate America is in a stronger position than ever to drive positive change. It is our business imperative to stamp out inequality, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and other forms of oppression in the workplace, giving all people the dignity of work and opportunity.
At present, upwards of $3 billion is spent each year on outdated human resources practices that filter people out of the workforce, practices such as background checks and credit checks that have no bearing on a person’s potential success on the job. Tremendous value and talent can be unlocked in an enterprise by investing in human capital models that trust in human potential.
Greyston Bakery is proof that radical trust and inclusion works. We’ve been practicing our Open Hiring Model for 36 years, giving jobs to those who face barriers to employment—the formerly incarcerated, refugees, those with limited education, veterans—no questions asked. You put your name on a list and when you get to the top, you get a job. It’s that simple. We trust that everyone, if given an opportunity, has the potential to succeed. We provide people with the tools and support to be successful on the job, without regard for their previous education, skills or background. Those that can do the job continue with Greyston as long as they want, and those that can’t are supported to find their next opportunity. And those that work hard and move on to different jobs elsewhere are celebrated.
We believe our model should be the norm not the exception: Sustaining exclusionary hiring practices is no longer a viable strategy. Instead, we need to create regenerative business practices. Practices that merely “sustain” a status quo, continue to deplete our environment and communities, while regenerative practices strengthen our environment, communities and economy.
To advance widespread adoption of our Open Hiring Model, we’ve recently launched The Center for Open Hiring at Greyston, and we are working with progressive partners to lead the charge and build an inclusive economy.
It is now possible for any progressive business to find new pathways to talent that generate an easily measured return on investment, build positive community impact, and see improved brand value, all at once. After all, billion-dollar unicorns such as Airbnb and Uber are proof that designing for trust works. In 2007, no one would have ever let a stranger stay in their house overnight. Joe Gebbia started Airbnb that year with a belief he could build a system that would change that.
By designing for trust, Gebbia created huge income opportunities for regular Americans to rent out their homes when they might otherwise be empty. In turn, he created a business worth $31 billion. This same opportunity to create value is available to every business if they look past the underachieving human capital models built for a very different time.
At Greyston, our model is more than three decades old, but other companies have been developing their own innovative models to foster inclusion in recent years. At the UN General Assembly in September, companies including IKEA, Microsoft, H&M and Hilton, pledged additional training, investment and jobs for refugees, recognizing their talent and contribution to society. IBM, Cisco, and Salesforce also recently pledged to improve the lives of refugees through employment opportunities, in a partnership with the Tent Foundation which is led by Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani.
We are also seeing the birth of specialist recruitment agencies such as Amplio that exist to connect companies with a base of dependable refugee workers across America. Following the proven return on designing for trust as shown by these and other progressive companies, global tech giant Slack this year announced an apprenticeship program for the formerly incarcerated, in partnership with The Last Mile, giving the formerly incarcerated an opportunity to put their learned skills to use to better their lives, and to boost the economy.
This support and investment in diversity extends beyond refugees and the formerly incarcerated to companies like Microsoft exploring how AI technology can benefit those with disabilities, and companies like EY building disability policies into their businesses to attract and retain a broader, dependable workforce.
We can no longer afford to leave those who have been systematically excluded from the workforce behind. The next wave of sustainable change must center around developing all people in our community, with new models for cultivating human capital.
No single business can eradicate our social problems, but if corporate America comes together, taking steps to address social injustice, we can improve the lives of millions of people while generating massive economic impact.
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Through the use of smart sensors and LED screens, drivers can receive not only real-time updates of available spaces, but also guidance that communicates exactly where the spaces are located. This extra layer of service can minimize the time spent searching for an open space, cutting down on stress and providing better service overall from the moment of arrival.
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Americans are increasingly divided by density, with rural areas leaning Republican and urban areas voting Democrat. But when it comes to the battle for Congress, congressional districts are tricky to categorize. Encompassing hundreds of thousands of residents each, they often contain cities, farmland, and suburbs in varying mixtures.
So CityLab came up with the Congressional Density Index: a way to classify all 435 congressional districts by their makeup of different types of neighborhoods. This isn’t just a curiosity—looking at the House through the lens of the Congressional Density Index showed that Republican difficulties in 2018 were concentrated in suburban districts long before the votes were cast.
Want to learn more? Here are some quick links:
- Read an introduction to the model and what it predicted for the 2018 elections
- See the full list of how each district was classified
- Explore how CityLab created the Congressional Density Index
Here’s the full list of CityLab articles using the Congressional Density Index:
- How the Suburbs Will Swing the Midterm Election
- In These Outlier Congressional Districts, Density Doesn’t Equal Democrats
- The 2010 Midterm Wave Rewrote America’s Political Geography. Will 2018 Do It Again?
- Density Will Affect Who Controls State Legislatures, Too
- Suburban Voters Gave Democrats Their House Majority
CityLab released the Congressional Density Index under the open-source MIT License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, which means anyone is free to use it provided you attribute CityLab and maintain this open license. A number of other analysts and publications have used the Congressional Density Index to explore the 2018 election, including the following articles:
- The Hill: “Suburban voters will decide control of Congress”
- Hawai’i Public Radio: “Justice Kavanaugh and the Upcoming 2018 Congressional Election”
- FiveThirtyEight: “Democrats Can Get Close To A House Majority With Suburban Seats Alone”
- FiveThirtyEight: “The Suburbs—All Kinds Of Suburbs—Delivered The House To Democrats”
- Axios: “Suburban districts moved toward Democrats in 2018”
- The Washington Post: “The shifts that handed the Democrats the House”
- Business Insider: “The diverging midterm results show there’s a growing political chasm in America. And both parties look like they’re digging in.”
Want to go deeper?
- Examine and download the computer code (in the R language) that CityLab used to create the Congressional Density Index
- Learn about some of the districts the model had a hard time classifying
- See classifications for the congressional districts used before the most recent round of redistricting in 2012
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