The SC2 Challenge, a critical element of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative, is designed to help cities capitalize on innovative ideas to create economic development plans and put them into action.
Hartford, Connecticut was one of just three U.S. cities chosen to participate in the SC2 Initiative.
Stephen Cole, Hartford’s Director of Economic Development Division, Department of Development Services, facilitated the Hartford SC2 Challenge competition and provided Innovation Destination: Hartford with information about the awards event.
COMMITTED TO THE HARTFORD COMMUNITY
Cole, who lives and works in downtown Hartford, was initially drawn to Hartford for his academic studies—he earned his Master’s Degree in in Public Policy & Law from Trinity College. He adopted Hartford as his hometown while working for the City of Springfield’s Department of Economic Development and welcomed the opportunity to become involved in Hartford’s economic development.
Cole has been working with the City of Hartford since May 2012 and says “Hartford does a great job of leveraging and managing its assets and resources and focusing on what the city of Hartford looks like next, not yesterday.”
“I believe Hartford will be the leader of the nation’s next economy,” Cole continued. “Hartford is also poised to be a leader in economic development. People will be relying on us for subject matter expertise. It’s already happening.”
Cole has been involved with an impressive array of projects and successes that include constructing New England’s largest solar PV array, managing the Parkville Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) program and helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. He says one of the projects he is most proud of is his involvement with the SC2 Initiative and his role in facilitating the Hartford SC2 Challenge competition.
THE SC2 INITIATIVE: HELPING COMMUNITIES ACHIEVE ECONOMIC GROWTH
Launched in 2011, the goal of the Obama Administration’s SC2 Initiative is to help communities strengthen their economic growth and create more jobs. The SC2 Initiative will also provide assistance to cities as they develop community enhancement plans.
“The SC2 enables the Feds to achieve objectives concisely, quickly and in an apolitical way,” Cole explained.
THE SC2 HARTFORD CHALLENGE: INSPIRING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Funded by the U.S. Economic Development agency, the SC2 Hartford Challenge was designed to inspire creative economic development strategies that encourage business growth.
The challenge encourages ideas from the community by requiring teams to develop comprehensive economic development strategies that will draw in entrepreneurs and start-up companies and assure them that Greater Hartford is a dynamic place to start and grow their businesses.
“Hartford has a diverse and strong entrepreneur community, and I like that there is not one particular type of entrepreneur,” Cole said. The SC2 Challenge resulted in six business plans to improve the city of Hartford, each addressing different things. “Having six—versus one—plans for the city spreads the wealth, Cole explained. “It means we get more ideas and more companies and more entrepreneurs benefit from them.”
“With the implementation of these six plans, Hartford stands to create 20,000 skilled and unskilled jobs over the next 10 years,” Cole added.
Phase I of the SC2 Hartford Challenge kicked off in February 2014 with a call for multidisciplinary teams to establish and create proposals for a transformative economic development strategy for the City of Hartford. While 58 teams participated, 25 submitted qualified proposals. A panel of community leaders reviewed the proposals and the top three teams shared $100,000 of grant funded prize money from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
In Phase II of the SC2 Hartford Challenge, the top 10 teams needed to develop fully developed economic development plans for the City of Hartford, which they submitted in April 2015. The winners were announced at the end of May 2015.
SC2 CHALLENGE WINNERS: MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN GREATER HARTFORD
A $500,000 grand prize was awarded to Hartford.Health.Works for its plans to create an FDA-approved, ISO-certified medical device prototyping and manufacturing plant in North Hartford and implement targeted programs to improve access to expertise, capital and markets.
Made-at-Swift received a $100,000 second place award for its plan to reuse the Swift Factory as an economic anchor for the northeast neighborhood and the City of Hartford through food and entrepreneurship.
A third place $75,000 prize was awarded to the Entrepreneurship Foundation. Its program intends to help Hartford residents open new businesses, thus creating wealth and jobs for themselves and their neighbors.
A fourth place $50,000 award was given to It’s All Here for an asset-based economic development model that will build wealth and raise incomes in all of Hartford’s neighborhoods by giving access and visibility to new markets and service providers. The program uses an interactive website, a multilingual call center, physical market locations and turnkey digital street signage.
Hartford Rocks received a fifth place $50,000 award for low-cost interventions that promote economic development, foster social interactions and support changing transportation dynamics including, open streets with popup markets, food trucks, a bike share system and microloans to grow small business.
Team FotoFiction earned a sixth place $25,000 award for a plan to create an urban community where people live, work, dine and shop in a dynamic, trend-setting environment constructed entirely of modified shipping containers.
All winners have pledged to use the award money to put their plans into effect. “The teams are eagerly talking about implementing their strategies,” Cole says. “Any one of these winners stands to have a huge impact in Hartford business ecosystem,” he added.
Cole plans to reconvene the winning teams to help develop their initiatives. He also intends to submit all of the SC2 proposals as applications to the EDA for funding.