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Nowak Lab Newsletters

Linked below are Nowak Metro Finance Lab newsletters, shared biweekly by Bruce Katz.


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A Green Business Initiative: How Cities Take Full Advantage of the Energy Transition - April 19, 2024

The energy transition impacts every aspect of the modern economy, driving transformative changes in the nature and location of economic activities. With recent legislation such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”), and CHIPS and Science Act, the U.S. government is investing at record levels to expedite the transition to a low-carbon economy. Taken together, these historic federal actions are allocating hundreds of billions of dollars over the next five to ten years, driving an economic restructuring of monumental proportions.

Anti-Displacement Lessons from Eastern North Philadelphia - April 4, 2024

Where you live is of supreme importance in America. Your address is a factor in what schools your children can attend, the jobs within reach, the value of your home or the price of your rent, the quality of your air, and much more. Your neighborhood is also your social network, your community, and often, part of your identity. Yet not all neighborhoods are equal: some have better or worse schools, higher quality or subpar housing, more or less access to transportation and jobs, and other forms of inequality. These neighborhood divisions are often the result of segregation by race and class, influenced by governmental policies like redlining, mortgage discrimination, and urban renewal.

Winning the Decade: A Conversation with Jason Hall, CEO Greater St. Louis, Inc. - March 28, 2024

A consistent focus of this newsletter has been the pandemic and other disruptive forces that have followed in its wake that have the potential to reshuffle the order of successful cities. As I’ve written before: “For cities that are organized, deliberate and purposeful, there is the tantalizing prospect of using this period to leapfrog, diversifying and greening their economies to become more economically resilient, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.”

Using Defense Spending to Grow Local Businesses: Insights from El Paso - March 21, 2024

As the United States faces escalating tensions across the globe, the modernization and transformation of our military has become an urgent concern. In response, the Department of Defense’s budget has increased significantly in recent years. In FY 2023, Department of Defense Appropriations totaled $797 billion, marking a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. These appropriations are critical for the United States and our allies to advance critical security objectives; they also have a sizable impact on communities across the nation, given how spending on personnel and contracts is recycled in metropolitan economies. This phenomenon, which we term the Defense Dividend, presents a unique opportunity for local and state leaders to use federal spending to drive economic growth, foster high-quality employment, and accelerate innovation. 

Cities and the National Defense Industrial Strategy - March 7, 2024

Note: A version of this newsletter was initially published by Governing Magazine on March 5, 2024

It is a rare occurrence when I bookmark a government white paper as a must read. Such reports tend to be dry, jargon-rich, bureaucracy-deadening affairs, more likely to induce a state of somnolence than impart knowledge or catalyze action.

The National Defense Industrial Strategy is an exception.

The Housing Opportunity Hidden in Plain Sight - February 23, 2024

Note: This newsletter was initially published by Governing Magazine on February 21, 2024

As we start 2024, it won’t come as a surprise that most of the traditional metrics underpinning housing affordability are moving in the wrong direction. Despite improvements in long-term interest rates and a slowdown in multifamily rent growth, rental affordability reached an all-time low in 2022. Based on the U.S. Census, an estimated 22.4 million renters now spend over 30 percent of their income on rent.

Unlocking the Procurement Economy: Lessons from San Antonio and El Paso - February 8, 2024

Over the past several years, the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program and the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University have dedicated countless hours to one central goal: using the expanding Procurement Economy to grow small local businesses, particularly those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

Our collaborative effort has been driven by the substantial increase in federal spending, spurred by the successive enactment of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act, the $411 billion Inflation Reduction Act and the $800+ billion (and rising) annual Department of Defense appropriations.

Rethinking Supply Chains for an Industrial Age - February 1, 2024

One of the lasting images of the pandemic period is of ships carrying goods from Asia stuck off the coast of California. The images prompted a burst of heroic federal action and the term “supply chains” became embedded in the public consciousness.

As with many things in the US, the pandemic images have receded into memory. But supply chain issues and the inefficiencies of our logistics sector persist, complicated by a surge in work-from-home and shop-from-home behavior as well as the reshoring of production driven by national security concerns and climate imperatives. And now, on top of these seismic shifts, we are encountering a rising conflict in the Red Sea and drought challenges facing the Panama Canal.

Supply chains matter and we ignore them at our peril.

How Cities Can Thrive in the New Industrial Era - January 18, 2024

Fueled by macro dynamics and unprecedented federal investments, the reshoring of advanced manufacturing is happening at a pace and scale that would have been inconceivable even three years ago. As a result, in many respects the hierarchy of American metros is being reset.  If the decade between the Great Recession and the pandemic seemed to be all about “superstar” tech cities, many of the winners in the remote-work era are going to be places that make tangible things.

Innovative Capital for Small Businesses: The Rise of Revenue Based Financing - January 11, 2024

Since we launched the Innovative Finance Playbook in November 2022, Catalyze and the Nowak Metro Finance Lab have been assessing Revenue Based Financing, or RBF, as a tool to help address the capital gaps and deficiencies laid bare by the COVID pandemic; namely, the 83% of entrepreneurs who do not access traditional bank debt and venture capital. We recently released a report sharing our findings entitled “The State of Revenue Based Financing and CDFIs.” 

Will 2024 be a Year of Financial Innovation? - January 5, 2023

The pandemic and post-pandemic period have been defined in many respects by capital. Beginning with the CARES Act and continuing with the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act, this capital period has seen the federal government dedicate trillions of public resources for a broad set of activities, initially related to rescue and recovery (a focus on preserving existing businesses and communities) in 2020-2021 and then economic transformation (an industrial/energy transition of monumental proportions) in 2021-2023. 

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