On June 17-18, 2013, the Urban and Regional Policy Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and Mayor Ashley Swearengin launched the first Strong Cities, Strong Communities Bootcamp in Fresno, California. This two-day workshop galvanized several of the city’s economic development initiatives, and explored ways to build civic capacity, engage and connect stakeholders, and to encourage innovative thinking around community revitalization strategies.
The three sessions focused on the development of an anchor institution strategy for downtown Fresno, exploration of the role of Downtown Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and ways that creative placemaking efforts can be combined with the City’s cultural heritage to help foster a local food culture. In each session national experts were brought together with local stakeholders to dialogue around best practices and opportunities.
Prevalent in each session was the realization that while Fresno is ripe with opportunities to help energize the downtown district, the challenge for the City lies in the creation of meaningful cross-sector partnerships.
Some of the opportunities identified include:
- the capacity to attract anchor institutions downtown and use them to catalyze the reinvigoration of the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods;
- the value of the role the Downtown Fresno Partnership (DFP) can play in connecting and engaging local property owners and downtown residents to the City’s revitalization efforts; and
- the role Fresno’s food culture can play in connecting the urban to the rural, animating public and private spaces, improving local business viability and public safety and attracting local residents and tourists downtown.
Participating experts in the first session moderated by Mayor Swearengin included Victor Rubin, Vice President for Research at PolicyLink; Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle, Inc; and Mike Wark, Director of External Relations for Washington University. Moderated by Kate Borders, the Executive Director of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, the second session panelists included Kate Haher, Director of Pedestrian Environment, Downtown Denver Partnership; Kraig Kojian, President & CEO for Downtown Long Beach Associates and the President for the California Downtown Association; and Karin Flood, the Executive Director for the Union Square BID in San Francisco. The final session, which focused on growing a food culture, was moderated by Craig Scharton, Business Development Director for the City of Fresno, and expert panelists included Sibella Kraus, President of Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE); James McCandless, Director of Retail for streetsense; and Michael Morrissey, the Director of the Oregon State University Food Innovation Centre.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in collaboration with the White House Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative, is responsible for implementing the SC2 Fellowship program. This program placed 17 professionals in two year positions in seven pilot cities (Chester, Cleveland, Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Youngstown, and New Orleans). The “Bootcamp” policy sessions further the impact of the SC2 Fellowship Program in each pilot city by providing additional training and mentoring opportunities for a broad range of city and civic leaders that work alongside the SC2 fellows.
GMF would like to thank the Surdna Foundation for their generous support of the SC2 Bootcamps.