Good Jobs First

… Good Jobs First is a national policy resource center for grassroots groups and public officials, promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families. We provide timely, accurate information on best practices in state and local job subsidies, and on the many ties between smart growth and good jobs. Good Jobs First works with a very broad spectrum of organizations, providing research, training, communications and consulting assistance … (full text about).

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Addresses (1 of 2): Good Jobs First {and Corporate Research Project}, 1616 P Street NW Suite 210, Washington, DC 20036, USA;
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Smarth Growth for working families /Overview: Why are so many people unhappy with the way our communities are growing? Increasing congestion, decreasing air quality, vanishing farms and open spaces–we’re all familiar with these tangible costs of new developments.

Less apparent is the harm this kind of growth causes to existing places and good jobs. As public dollars and new jobs move out to green fields, the places where we already live and work take a hit.

To help you and your community get a better idea of the impacts of sprawling growth, Good Jobs First concentrates on three things: 1) the role that economic development subsidies play in distorting growth patterns; 2) how subsidized job flight affects economic opportunity for low-income workers; and 3) the ways that low density growth, “job sprawl,” harms job quality.

Economic Development Subsidies: Distorted:

  • Taxpayers pay for sprawl when they subsidize corporate relocations, many of which go from older core areas to newer fringe places. Companies tend to remain in the same metro area, so they can retain their workforce and stay close to their suppliers and customers.
  • Some economic development subsidies–such as enterprise zones and tax increment financing (TIF)–were originally created to help revitalize depressed areas. But over time, these and many other subsidies have become part of the problem instead of the solution. Subsidies originally intended to rebuild older urban areas are being distorted into subsidies that promote suburban sprawl. Wal-Mart and other big box retailers are getting subsidies, even though they pirate much of their sales from existing merchants. Upscale malls, office parks, and even golf-course projects are getting subsidies from programs originally intended to help low-income neighborhoods.
  • The net effect has been to worsen sprawl, fueling the out-migration of urban jobs, the growth of jobs in areas that are not accessible by public transportation, and the resulting hyper-concentration of unemployment and poverty in urban cores.

Economic Opportunity for Low-Income Workers:

  • Sprawl creates a spatial mismatch between unemployed workers at the core and job growth at the fringe. Because many unemployed workers in the core, who are disproportionately African-American and Latino, cannot afford to own a car, and because many of the new jobs on the fringe are not accessible by public transportation, sprawl undercuts economic opportunity for people who need help the most.
  • Good Jobs First’s national survey, Missing the Bus found that of all the 1,500+ economic development subsidy programs enacted by the 50 states, not one gives preference to–much less requires–projects in which subsidized jobs are accessible by public transit.
  • Sprawl causes much other harm to families who are trapped in core areas, whether or not they can afford a car. Sprawl drains the tax base from the inner city and inner-ring suburbs, forcing those areas to raise tax rates and cut back on public services. Schools, healthcare, public safety, libraries, parks and other public services all suffer, and that in turn makes the neighborhoods less attractive for employers; a spiral of decline sets in.

Broad Harm to Job Quality:

  • Good-paying jobs that provide health care are what working families truly need. Unions have traditionally been the main way workers have gained better job quality. However, unions are urban institutions. When jobs thin out geographically, they also tend to de-unionize. A well-known example is Wal-Mart and its Supercenters, which undermine unionized grocery stores that employ members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
  • This phenomenon is also true in manufacturing, health care, hospitality, warehousing, building services, transportation, and construction. In the public sector, the erosion of the tax base in older areas hurts public employees across the board: in transit, education, police, fire, human services and sanitation.
  • Of course, many workers benefit from higher wages and benefits even though they don’t belong to a union. When unions improve wages, benefits, and working conditions at a firm, nonunion firms will often match those terms in order to hire competitively. So when union density declines in a metro area, the living standards of both union workers and nonunion workers will suffer.

We summarize how sprawl harms job quality in our publication: Talking to Union Leaders About Smart Growth.

Smart Growth Movement and Working Families: … (full text).

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