Project Hometown: Diverse Perspectives, Stronger Communities

The Project Hometown team studies a wide range of economic issues important to the communities we serve. Find academic research and publications by Project Hometown and Chicago Federal Reserve staff here.

Featured Publication
How To Meet the Post-Pandemic Needs of Detroit’s Black-Led Businesses
Chicago Fed Insights

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, Black-led businesses faced unequal access to capital that limited their ability to sustain themselves and grow. But with Black-led businesses nationwide reportedly receiving a disproportionately lower share of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, the pandemic has cast a spotlight on the need for reforms to better support these important community institutions.

On November 17, business experts, funders, thought leaders, and advocates from Detroit’s business community joined a Project Hometown event to discuss the needs of Black businesses and provide insights into how policymakers, financial institutions, and business service intermediaries can provide the necessary infrastructure, support, and financing to help them succeed.

All Research & Publications
Charging Ahead: Midwest Autos Face an Electric Future
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

In a virtual event on October 6, 2021, an expert panel discussed the auto industry’s technological transformation to electric vehicles (EVs), shared ideas about what firms and workers will likely face during the transition by 2030 and beyond, and identified obstacles to achieving policy goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through electrification of transport. This blog post summarizes the discussions. This event was the latest in the Chicago Fed’s Project Hometown series, designed to address the needs and challenges facing our region and our communities.

Measuring Learning Loss from School Closures During the Pandemic and Beyond
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

Universal school closures beginning in March 2020 led many students into virtual or hybrid learning, leading to widespread concerns about learning loss among students. The latest Project Hometown virtual event, Learning Loss and Renewal after the Pandemic, hosted by the Chicago Fed on August 10, 2021, featured a panel of experts in the field of education to raise awareness of the consequences of school closures and remote learning on academic achievement and economic opportunities, particularly for students in economically disadvantaged communities.

Detroit’s Fiscal Challenges and Opportunities Now and Post-Pandemic
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

A Project Hometown event examined Detroit’s city government financing to understand how its unique revenue structure has fared during the Covid-19 pandemic, how it will respond post-pandemic, and how federal funding under the American Rescue Plan Act can best be put to use to meet the needs of its residents and promote inclusive economic growth.

Supporting Chicago’s Youth Through Summer Employment and Beyond
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

A recent Project Hometown event brought community experts together to discuss the importance of summer jobs programs and identify ways to extend their positive effects on young people, their families, and communities.

Improving Access to Capital for Detroit’s Minority Business Owners
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

A Project Hometown event on March 4 brought together business leaders, community organizations, and researchers to discuss the availability of finance and capital to predominantly Black-owned businesses in Detroit.

Household Financial Stability in Detroit: Empowering People to Bring About Prosperity
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

The latest Project Hometown virtual event brought together community experts to talk about specific ways to help strengthen Detroit households’ financial capabilities and address health and wealth disparities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Bridging the Digital Divide: Challenges and Recommendations
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

A panel of experts advocated for a range of critical actions to address the digital divide in a virtual Project Hometown event on January 28, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Events in this series are part of a broader effort by the Chicago Fed to help our communities overcome the challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and bring about a more inclusive recovery.

Pathways for an Inclusive and Resilient Economy in Indianapolis
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

The goal of the December 18 event, “Indianapolis After the Covid-19 Pandemic,” was to hear from a cross section of Indianapolis leaders on their efforts to open the economy in a way that is inclusive and creates resiliency for the future, explained Garvester Kelley, regional program lead for community and economic development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. This virtual discussion was the 12th in a series of Project Hometown events that have brought together civic leaders, researchers, policymakers, Chicago Fed staff, and interested community members across the Seventh District.

Visions for a More Resilient and Inclusive Milwaukee
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

A virtual panel on visions for Milwaukee’s future was held on December 1 as part of the Chicago Fed’s Project Hometown series. Jeremiah Boyle, assistant vice president and managing director of community and economic development at the Chicago Fed, moderated the discussion. Boyle has a long-term connection to Milwaukee that continues today. Boyle’s daughter is a senior at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, and “she has benefited from a truly welcoming community in the city,” he said. In his prior role at the Chicago Fed, Boyle worked directly with Wisconsin and Milwaukee. Also, a decade ago, he contributed to a joint Federal Reserve—Brookings Institute study on concentrated poverty in America, where he wrote a case study focusing on the Northwest side of Milwaukee. This Chicago Fed community forum focused on ways to rebuild Milwaukee so that all members of society can prosper, with a particular emphasis on reversing racial inequalities.

What the Closure of a Paper Mill Means for the Community of Wisconsin Rapids
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

Can Wisconsin Rapids reinvent itself once again? This was the central question raised at the November 18 Project Hometown virtual panel moderated by Steven Kuehl, senior advisor on community and economic development at the Chicago Fed. The paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids closed down on July 31 after 116 years of continuous operation, explained Kuehl. “The pandemic precipitated a sudden and dramatic decline in demand for paper produced at the Rapids mill,” accelerating long-term global trends in the industry, said Kuehl. The closure led to the loss of over 900 jobs to the detriment of the Wisconsin Rapids community and, more broadly, central Wisconsin.

Rewriting the Rules to Expand Opportunity in Detroit
Chicago Fed Insights
By Caroline Beetz Fenske

A Project Hometown community forum brought leaders from government, business, the health sector, and the philanthropic community together to discuss initiatives to address the diverse challenges facing Detroit and Michigan, including policies aimed at reversing racial inequities that limit economic opportunities for all.

Making Innovation Inclusive: Engaging the Public and Private Sectors to Create Growth and Opportunity for All
Chicago Fed Insights
By Lisa Camner McKay

Innovation has been an essential driver of economic growth in Chicago. However, the benefits of that innovation have not been experienced equally across the city’s diverse population. The sustained health and economic crises caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have served as a poignant illustration of these disparities. On October 19, Project Hometown convened thought leaders from the private and public sectors to discuss how Chicago could secure its role as a global hub for innovation in a way that will offer opportunity for all of the city’s residents.

From Crisis to Good Trouble: How Chicago’s Neighborhoods are Navigating the Covid Pandemic
Chicago Fed Insights
By Lisa Camner McKay

Experts from five Chicago nonprofit organizations and research institutions convened for a Project Hometown event on September 25 to discuss the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the health and economy of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. While the pandemic has affected everyone, it hasn’t affected everyone equally. Both health and economic outcomes have been more severe for Chicago’s communities of color, panelists described.

Attracting Investments to Opportunity Zones and Diverse Perspectives on Community Engagement
CDPS Blog
By Brianna Smith and Nathan Anderson

This blog shares diverse perspectives about community engagement in opportunity zone projects based on interviews with stakeholders.

Closing Racial Economic Gaps During Covid-19
Chicago Fed Insights
By Jane Dokko and Jung Sakong

The severe and prolonged economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic have stressed the earnings of tens of millions of households. The pandemic has also widened the racial disparities in health and economic outcomes for Black and Latinx families. And the existing social safety net has not provided sufficient cash and in-kind transfers to support families dealing with the impacts of surging unemployment, waning fiscal relief, and extended remote learning. These shortfalls are likely to affect not just households’ immediate needs, but also, as research suggests, their long-term economic prospects.

More Chicago Properties at Risk for Flooding Than Flood Maps Suggest
Chicago Fed Insights
By Andy Polacek

After the third straight “wettest May on record” for Chicago, if you’re a Chicagoan you may be wondering if your home is at risk for serious flooding. One way to figure this out might be to look at the flood maps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the federal agency in charge of national disaster preparedness and relief. FEMA flood maps say that only 0.3% of properties (three out of every 1,000) should flood more than once every 100 years. If you base your opinion of your home’s flood risk on FEMA flood maps alone, you will probably think your home is safe. However, if you watched the news coverage of the May 2020 storms with images of the Riverwalk underwater, the Willis Tower as a dark obelisk in the skyline after its basement flooded, neighborhood streets turned into rivers, and yards turned into ponds, you may be thinking that risk assessment seems too low, and you’d be right. This blog discusses flooding in Chicago and why FEMA flood maps underrepresent flood risk in Chicago.

Iowa’s Road to Recovery and Growth
Chicago Fed Insights
By Lisa Camner McKay

Iowa, like every U.S. state, has been challenged by the sudden health and economic crises caused by Covid-19. Then on August 10, a severe storm with winds exceeding 100-mph swept across the state, damaging crops and leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without power. To discuss Iowa’s road to recovery, the Chicago Fed’s Project Hometown hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday, August 18, with experts from the state who examined the roles that governments, businesses, and nonprofits can play in promoting an inclusive economic recovery for all of Iowa’s people and industries.

Pace, Scale, Quality: How Transportation, Urban Planning, and Architecture Can Build a Better Chicago
Chicago Fed Insights
By Lisa Camner McKay

On Monday, August 17, the Chicago Fed’s Project Hometown convened a panel of experts to discuss the past failure and future promise of transportation, urban planning, and architecture to deliver an equitable quality of life across Chicago.

Safety, Equity, Partnership: Strategies to Get Chicago’s Workforce Back to Work
Chicago Fed Insights
By Lisa Camner McKay

What will it take to get Chicago’s workforce safely back to work? A Project Hometown virtual community forum brought together business, labor, and education leaders to discuss measures to help workers navigate the public health and economic crises.

Reimagining Education: Chicago Public Schools During and After Covid-19
Chicago Fed Insights
By Lisa Camner McKay

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to in-person education. To discuss the challenges facing educators, students, and families, the Chicago Fed convened a panel of expert practitioners and researchers as part of its Project Hometown initiative. The panel explored the needs of different student populations and how education leaders can use this disruption to reimagine what schools might look like when in-person education resumes.

Begin with Your Block: Challenges and Prospects for Chicago’s Minority Middle Neighborhoods
Chicago Fed Insights
By Lisa Camner McKay

Historically Chicago’s minority “middle” neighborhoods have been attractive places to live, with a large base of middle- and working-class residents, active business corridors, affordable housing, and proximity to the city’s center. Over the past 40 years, however, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, discriminatory housing policies, and disinvestment have left minority middle neighborhoods particularly vulnerable to economic shocks. The current coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost every facet of economic life in these communities. Perhaps the most obvious distress is among small businesses, which have experienced a rapid and widespread decline in employment.

This blog post summarizes a Project Hometown panel discussion on Wednesday, July 29, that brought together practitioners and researchers to explore the challenges faced by Chicago’s minority middle neighborhoods.

Chicago Community Forum Explores Urban Challenges During Covid-19
Chicago Fed Insights
By Amy Bickers and Mark Peters

The Chicago Fed hosted a community forum on Wednesday, July 1, that brought together government, civic, health, and business leaders to share their visions for how Chicago recovers from the Covid-19 crisis and rebuilds its economy. The discussion underscored the urgent need for Chicago to tackle its longstanding challenges of providing equal opportunity (especially in education and jobs), combating racism, and reducing wealth inequality as part of the city’s response to the pandemic.

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