The Community Solutions Team

The Community Solutions Team (CST) operated in 14 cities from 2012–16 to assist local leaders and institutions in addressing economic development. CSTs were embedded within the mayors’ offices for two years beginning with six pilot cities in 2012, and expanded to an additional eight cities in 2014. CST work included coordinating a federal interagency team focused on leveraging federal resources to advance the city’s economic development goals.

The 14 cities were:

Brownsville, TX;
Chester, PA;
Cleveland, OH;
Detroit, MI;
Flint, MI;
Fresno, CA;
Gary, IN;
Macon-Bibb County, GA;
Memphis, TN;
New Orleans, LA;
Rockford, IL;
Rocky Mount, NC;
St. Louis, MO; and
Youngstown, OH.

Respondents noted that smaller cities generally found greater success using the CST resources during the first cohort. In addition, local officials involved with SC2 from the city side felt that CSTs were most useful for mayors’ offices that had developed strategic plans for economic development before SC2. Those familiar with the second cohort described the CST initiative as evolving throughout SC2 and improving on the first cohort’s best elements. This included focusing on mid- and small-sized cities and unifying technical assistance around critical projects, such as remediating brownfields rather than providing a broad array of technical assistance across multiple agencies.

Community Solutions Teams provided technical assistance that connected city staff with federal resources and built relationships between local and federal staff. In addition, CSTs facilitated local and regional partnerships between city government and stakeholders, such as local business, nonprofits, and state agencies, and provided staff capacity to each mayor’s office team as another person focused on planning and implementing economic development programming.

Many of those involved and familiar with the CST program emphasized the benefit of placing SC2 staff on the ground in mayors’ offices to facilitate the connections between federal employees and city staff seeking technical assistance. Community Solutions Teams frequently took hands-on project roles in addition to providing guidance on navigating the federal system. The 2017 White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities’ final report notes that “Federal SC2 teams functioned as a nimble, solutions-oriented partner, cutting through federal red tape and leveraging resources to advance the city’s economic development goals” (White House 2017). Interviews with city staff who worked with CSTs highlighted the importance of having another staff member focused on SC2, that resource-scarce cities frequently cannot hire additional high-capacity talent. Although the CST program is over, many of the federal and city staff involved remain in touch with the staff they met during SC2. To find out more about the about the community solutions team, click here.