Cities of Opportunity
Healthy People, Thriving Communities

Economic Opportunity

Building on the report of the Task Force on Economic Mobility and Opportunity – Keeping the American Dream Alive, NLC has curated a set of options for city action that are evidence-informed and expert-recommended. These programs, practices and policies are for city consideration to advance Economic Opportunity and improve health in their communities.


  • Identify, focus and partner on high-opportunity employment sectors, promote coordination of occupation-specific job creation with quality jobs that pay a living wage, and workforce development including internships, apprenticeships, education/training with stackable credentials and work experience, and a career pathway.
  • Expand community-based entrepreneurship by supporting programs (e.g., micro-loans) that identify and assist entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods who lack access to traditional capital and business services.
  • Partner with anchor institutions to grow local wealth by establishing local worker cooperatives.
  • Support individuals who need basic education and employment credentials by offering programs for high-school equivalent/GED certificates; adult vocational training for acquisition of job-specific skills; on-the-job training often with personal development resources and supports; summer youth employment/career preparation and/or bridge programs for hard-to-employ adults (retirees, formerly incarcerated) through training in basic skills and industry-specific skills with other supports.
  • Establish program for shared contracting/pooling across small city boundaries to produce savings and reinvestments back into the communities.
  • Provide or incentivize a Double Up Food Bucks! Program to help low-income families access more fresh produce when they use their SNAP or WIC benefits at farmers’ markets.


  • Utilize asset mapping tools to assess community workforce needs, including disparities between neighborhoods with high levels of joblessness and areas of the city with high concentrations of small businesses and job centers.
  • Catalyze regional, sector-based partnerships of industry, government, education & training institutions, community-based organizations and residents to address the workforce and worker needs of major employers and high-growth sectors of the municipality.
  • Forge partnerships with school districts, community colleges, businesses and industry groups to create career pipelines and prepare students for jobs in the 21st Century economy.
  • Encourage anchor institutions to adopt local hiring and purchasing programs, especially in underserved areas.
  • Use municipality’s own utility payment data to identify families that are struggling and connect them to financial empowerment services.
  • Convene providers across sectors to address systemic barriers for connecting eligible people to social services (healthcare coverage, transportation, childcare, job training, etc.).
  • Establish protocols for offering realistic debt repayment plans and referrals to local non-profit financial counseling services when residents fall behind on payments to city agencies.


  • To ensure competitiveness in the region and to serve as an example to local employers, institute policies for city employees: increase in minimum wage, inclusive hiring, advancement opportunities, paid time off and other competitive benefits.
  • Establish city contract purchasing requirements for minority-, women-owned and locally-owned small businesses.
  • In states where preemption does not prevent city action, incentivize employers to provide an increase in minimum wage or bonuses.
  • Incentivize employers in the municipality to provide paid sick leave for employees.
  • Incentivize employers in the municipality to establish standards around scheduling so workers can work steady days and sufficient hours for stable income source
  • Incentivize employers to provide and/or advocate for job supports to attract and retain employees, e.g., childcare and commuter vouchers, stronger transportation systems.
  • Ensure that all large economic development projects within the city include a community benefit agreement with binding commitments regarding jobs, wages, purchasing/contracting and neighborhood investments.
  • Limit predatory financial practices through local ordinances to regulate alternative finance services (e.g., caps on maximum interest rates, minimum loan terms, truth in lending).
  • Incentivize businesses and nonprofits to connect people to benefits (EITC, CSAs, child tax credits, SNAP, LIHEAP) and to provide savings vehicles for low income employees (credit unions, match dollar incentives for tax refunds).
Skip to toolbar