New State & Local Policies

Towards a Localist Policy Agenda

Stacy Mitchell

At the annual BALLE conference this past June, Stacey Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance highlighted the importance of building a national policy agenda that supports local ownership. Mitchell addressed why changing public policy is essential, the need for framing a compelling narrative to assert change, the importance of building the appropriate components of a national policy agenda, and indicated some first steps to take. Using compelling examples from specific sectors, such as local food and local banking, Mitchell shows that while real change is occurring, major structural forces impede progress and that remaking public policy is critical to moving past those barriers.

Local Governments Recognize Benefits of Buying Local

Dane County Wisconsin joins ranks of governments incentivizing local procurement

Last month the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, better known as BALLE, had its annual conference in Buffalo, New York, bringing together international thought leaders, on-the-ground social entrepreneurs, policymakers, local economy funders, and philanthropists who are all working to build a new localist economy. The goals of localism are to expand and diversify local ownership, offer import substitutions, and foster business cooperation in a particular place with the result of creating more jobs — and, hence, wealth — per capita, and encouraging greater personal accountability for the health of communities.

Community Organizing for a New Economy

Democracy Collaborative panel highlights transformative work of community-based organizations

Earlier this month at Left Forum, The Democracy Collaborative helped organize five panels on a variety of different topics related to cooperatives, sustainability and growing a new economy. The last session of the weekend, “Community Organizing for a New Economy,” offered a spirited conversation around some innovative new work that is helping build a new economy.

A Third of All States Now Have Benefit Corp Laws

A primer on the difference between B Corps and Benefit Corps
Copyright B Lab (
Last month, the state of Nevada became the 17th state to pass legislation enabling businesses to incorporate as benefit corporations. There are nearly a dozen other states considering legislation, illustrating just how rapidly this idea has spread since Maryland became the first to pass legislation in April 2010. Legislatures in all corners of the U.S. have supported this concept overwhelmingly. This widespread acceptance of a need for a corporation that is motivated by more than just profit is an intriguing trend especially as other environmental and economic trends continue to move in the opposite direction.

How Nonprofit Institutions Can Improve Local Economies

MIT, UMCP release University Hospitals case study
Photo Credit: Justin Knight

Can a hospital’s economic development strategy do more to heal a city than its emergency room? This question was at the core of a MIT-University of Maryland (UMCP) case study of University Hospitals’ (UH) Vision 2010 program in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Worker Co-op New Era Windows Opens For Business

From sit-down strikes to state subsidies
Photo courtesy of Brendan Martin/The Working World

Last week, the New Era Windows cooperative celebrated its opening in a former Campbell’s Soup building in Chicago, the culmination of a hard-fought struggle by workers to save their livelihoods. Their well-documented struggle began in 2008 when the workers of Republic Windows and Doors occupied the factory to keep it from closing, attracting national attention. Read more about Worker Co-op New Era Windows Opens For Business...

Delicious New Mexico

The Albuquerque affiliate of the national Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), Delicious New Mexico supports the New Mexico food business community by building networks and promoting innovation and best practices. It does so by facilitating collaboration between growers and suppliers, and restaurants and consumers, all the while creating a strong, sustainable regional food economy. Delicious New Mexico is now a highly visible brand that distinguishes fine food products and encourages people to think and buy local. 

City of Albuquerque Climate Action Plan

In the summer of 2008, the City of Albuquerque assembled a task force comprising 60 residents to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 80 percent by the year 2050. The result is the Climate Action Plan that was subsequently reviewed by peer groups and presented for community comment at 10 town hall meetings held at different locations around the city. The plan suggests policy goals in the areas of carbon offsets, local food and agriculture, carbon neutral buildings, recycling, renewable energy, social change, livable neighborhoods and transportation. 

Growing a Resilient City: Possibilities for Collaboration in New York City’s Solidarity Economy


SolidarityNYC’s latest report Growing a Resilient City: Possibilities for Collaboration in New York City’s Solidarity Economy presents their vision for an interconnected economy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy where communities take control of their own development in a grassroots, bottom-up, and democratic manner. The result of a “listening and building process,” this report examines the challenges and possibilities for connecting organizations working towards social change from community credit unions to worker cooperatives. Responses were divided into the following categories: growing visibility, strengthening organizations, building economic power, building political power, and structures for collaboration. 

Done Right, Eliminating Food Deserts Result in Community Oases

Building community wealth every step of the way
Pogue’s Run Grocer Mural, an initiative of the Indy Food Co-op. © Indy Food Co-op
Building healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities requires more than “bottom up” solutions. The importance of community ownership to ensure that projects that start at the bottom result in lasting community wealth for the people involved is often missing from the discussion. The local foods movement provides examples that illustrate the importance of this ownership principle in practice.

Democracy Collaborative Presents to Illinois Governor's Task Force

Public session April 24 on community wealth building
Next week in Chicago, Democracy Collaborative executive director Ted Howard will present testimony before the Governor's Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise. The presentation will focus on a set of actionable policy recommendations to help position Illinois as the nation’s leader in community wealth building. The meeting will take place in room 314 at Roosevelt University’s Walter E. Heller College of Business, 430 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.

The Job Creation Shell Game: Ending the Wasteful Practice of Subsidizing Companies that Move Jobs From One State to Another

Greg LeRoy, et al

A new report from Good Jobs First shows how state and local governments waste billions of dollars in subsidies used to lure business across state lines while businesses use job creation “blackmail” to demand greater rewards. The result is a shrinking tax base for states, reducing needed resources for education, infrastructure development, and job development as well as unfair job redistribution. After examining the states where these practices are most common and harmful, the authors recommend policies that reduce interstate job competition.  Ultimately, the authors call on the federal government to use incentives to curtail these practices. 

The American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE)

An outgrowth of the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s “high-road” economic policy think-tank, the Center On Wisconsin Strategy (COWS), The American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE) presents itself as an alternative to the corporate-backed ALEC and promotes economic fairness, environmental sustainability, and effective democratic government. Their website acts as a one-stop public library of model progressive state and local law on a wide range of issues that can be searched by policy area, topic, level of government, and year.

Be a Localist

Founded in 2001, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) supports the growth of sustainable local economies through connecting leaders, spreading solutions that work, and driving investment toward local economies. BALLE promotes localism and believes that ownership, place, opportunity, nature and relationships all matter in creating real prosperity for all. BALLE's website connects members to local business networks and affinity groups, promotes success stories, and provides resources to help local businesses better articulate their economic impact.

Town Center Program

The Town Center Program is a study conducted by the City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department in commercial areas of neighborhoods that are 30 years or older and are in need of revitalization. Each neighborhood projected a detailed program budget of approximately $1 million for improvements such as street lighting, trees, and other urban planning considerations. A total of $17 million will be allocated for these 17 projects. Funding has been awarded for the Phase 1 Vision Plans. Phase 2, which has not begun, is to design and engineer these plans, and then implementation begins in Phase 3.

Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council

The Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council was incorporated in 1974 to preserve and revitalize the commercial areas of Springfield - the first suburb in Jacksonville. The organization works with multiple stakeholders to facilitate commercial revitalization programs. The organization targets businesses according to the needs of the community, having played a role in the opening or relocation of 12 businesses to Springfield in 2010. Some development projects include a mixed-use project with 36 extended-stay units and 7,500 square feet of retail space and the JAXPORT expansion, which is estimated to bring 5,000 to 10,000 jobs to the area.

Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity

Peter Fischer

Good Jobs First and The Iowa Policy Project use statistical analysis to show how policies advocated by the American Legislatives Exchange Council (ALEC) have not only failed to produce positive economic results but have actually resulted in worse outcomes for states. Written by Dr. Peter Fischer, the report finds that ALEC’s proscribed policies to reduce or abolish progressive taxes, weaken unions, invest less in education and public services, and shrink the social safety net to promote job creation and growth have led to economic inequality, wage suppression, income stagnation, and a sharp deduction in state and local revenue needed to maintain public infrastructure and systems.