Our region’s communities have great strengths, but today face extraordinary challenges. Recovering from the pandemic will require an unprecedented effort. And racism and other barriers limit economic opportunities for too many people, even in good times. Project Hometown is the Chicago Fed’s commitment to engaging all of our communities as they confront these challenges. Project Hometown will bring together civic leaders, expert researchers, Chicago Fed staff, and concerned residents. Through these diverse perspectives, Project Hometown will examine how our hometowns can recover from the pandemic, overcome longstanding inequities, grow stronger, and provide all people with the opportunity to thrive.
Chair, Commercial Club of Chicago
CEO, UL Corp.
This virtual event will bring together business leaders, community organizations, and researchers to discuss the availability of finance and capital to predominantly Black-owned businesses in Detroit. The pandemic is contributing to high failure rates across small businesses in the city, and public programs such as PPP have had difficulty reaching many of these firms. The panel will discuss both internal and external barriers that these firms face in accessing capital. Why do these firms often lack traditional banking relationships? What type of capital are they looking for? What programs already exist that might help support these businesses that are often critical to the local economy?
In Detroit, as in other American cities, the health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been felt disproportionally by some groups and neighborhoods. Lower-paid workers are being impacted the hardest, with those in the restaurant, hotel, and entertainment industries among those experiencing the highest rates of job loss. Many newly unemployed workers have little personal savings to cushion the blow. Even before the pandemic, disadvantaged groups in Detroit were experiencing significant challenges. Many economists agree that the fallout from the Great Recession of 2007–09 was particularly severe in Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013. With economic hardship caused by the collapse in the housing market still fresh in the memories of Detroit residents, many fear that the current crisis will further impede growth and recovery for the city. The forum brings together diverse perspectives on how Detroit’s people can recover from the pandemic, overcome long-standing inequities, and rebuild for resilience.
The pandemic has put into stark relief the ramifications of being on the wrong side of the digital divide. The economic future of both urban and rural places depends on overcoming the digital divide, as demonstrated by the effects of the pandemic. In particular, the strains on our public education system since March may have impacts lasting a generation or longer, but digital literacy is also a critical gateway in the path to living-wage employment. In addition to remote learning across the educational spectrum, digital exclusion (or marginalization) has impacted access to stimulus benefits; efforts to rapidly scale tele-medicine; work from home; and even basic tasks, such as banking, shopping online for food and other necessities, and connecting with family and friends during a period of crisis. This panel will bring together experts to discuss the current status of the digital divide, while highlighting solutions that build broadband infrastructure where needed, promote digital literacy, and provide access to digital devices.
This virtual event will explore the efforts under way as Indianapolis reopens its economy and strives to become more resilient for the future. A discussion among government, business, healthcare, nonprofit, and philanthropic leaders will feature insights into how Indianapolis can rebuild and grow a resilient economy for all its residents.
Government, community, economic development, and business leaders will come together to discuss their visions for Milwaukee’s future. A panel discussion will explore how Milwaukee can recover from the challenges posed by a pandemic, record unemployment, and social unrest. The discussion will also focus on opportunities to rebuild Milwaukee’s economy so that all residents can benefit from a strong future for the city.
The pandemic precipitated a sudden and dramatic decline in the demand for paper produced at the Wisconsin Rapids paper mill, accelerating long term global trends and ushering in transformational change. On July 31, 2020, the paper mill was indefinitely shut down, laying off over 900 workers. Paper had been continuously produced at the mill since 1904 and the shutdown has created an economic, social and cultural tsunami. This event will explore the lessons from the past on what made Wisconsin Rapids thrive and opportunities for central Wisconsin to reinvent itself for the future.
This virtual event brought together government, community, health, and business leaders to discuss visions for how Detroit recovers from the Covid-19 crisis. Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, moderated a discussion exploring how Detroit can meet the public health challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, rebuild the economy, and ensure all residents share in a strong future for the city.
Chicago is a global hub for innovation in finance, technology, and other sectors. Yet continued innovation is not a given, and the makeup of the city’s population has not been reflected in its most innovative industries. How can Chicago’s history of innovation continue, and how can it include all residents of the city?
A Closer Look at Chicago’s NeighborhoodsSeptember 25, 2020
In Chicago, as in all major cities, the health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt disproportionally by some groups and neighborhoods. Similarly, the decline in economic activity necessary to reduce the spread of the virus has had a disparate impact on employment around the city. Our goal for this forum was to bring together diverse perspectives on how neighborhoods can recover from the pandemic, overcome long-standing inequities, and rebuild for resilience.
What will the recovery from the pandemic look like for Iowa, and what role will different sectors play? The state faces many challenges, especially given its urban and rural economies and the importance of its farms and businesses to the nation’s supply chain. Government, industrial, and nonprofit leaders will consider the challenges Iowa has faced during the pandemic, as well as the roles that government, philanthropy, education, and the business sector can play to ensure a recovery in which all Iowans can thrive.
and Transportation in Chicago’s Future August 17, 2020
Chicago, like most major cities, has seen uneven economic development over the last two decades. Growth in and near downtown has been pronounced, while neighborhoods on the South Side and West Side have seen disinvestment and population loss. Experts will examine the roles of urban planning, architecture, and transportation in Chicago’s growth, how the physical features of the city may adapt to the pandemic, and how the city’s infrastructure and built environment can support inclusive economic growth.
How can government, philanthropy, education, and the private sector work together to make workplaces safe under pandemic conditions and get displaced workers back to work? What strategies can be built into such efforts to improve the long-run job prospects for racially diverse and economically disadvantaged workers? Chicago leaders from business, labor, education, and workforce development organizations will discuss these questions.
Challenges for Fall 2020 August 3, 2020
The pandemic forced a sudden transition to remote learning. Although students, parents and educators are striving to adapt, the risk of massive and inequitable losses of learning still remains. And even before the pandemic, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), like many other school districts, was confronting challenges in educating all its students. Education leaders and stakeholders will discuss the challenges and opportunities confronting CPS and its students, and how we might address them.
Chicago has a rich history of minority "middle" neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods that for decades had a large base of middle- and working-class residents, high rates of homeownership, and active commercial corridors. But as places in the city have become more unequal, these predominantly minority neighborhoods have become increasingly vulnerable to economic shocks. Covid-19, the economic slowdown, and civil unrest have magnified the challenges.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for your comments.