Helping Citizens Fulfill Their Potential

Mayors are investing in the success of their residents to help their communities keep pace with the demands of a technologically driven economy.
NANCY LEMOND, CHIEF ADVOCACY & ENGAGEMENT OFFICER, AARP | May 19, 2017

Editor’s Note: The United States is often thought of as the “land of opportunity,” but this doesn’t always apply to all citizens. For example, the Federal Communications Commission notes that nearly 40 percent of Americans living in rural areas lack broadband access. This makes it difficult for those people to remain competitive in a digitally driven world. Every community has underserved populations, and creating programs and initiatives to help these – and all – residents succeed is often top of mind for mayors. Providing ample opportunity for individuals of all ages and backgrounds will continue to be the backbone of successful communities.

When residents have opportunities to fulfill their potential – whether it be through education, employment or access to technology – communities thrive. Investing in the success of their residents – no matter their age or background – helps communities keep pace with the demands of a global, technologically driven economy.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is now nicknamed “Gig City” after three successive mayors championed citywide ultra-high-speed internet connectivity. Most recently, Mayor Andy Berke is leveraging the city’s unique infrastructure through the Enterprise Center, a dedicated organization that supports innovation and digital inclusion. The center also anchors the 140-acre downtown Innovation District, which fosters entrepreneurial economic development initiatives. Now, dozens of start-ups are building their businesses in Chattanooga.

Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit is investing in his city’s youth by spearheading the Grow Detroit Young Talent program. The city recruits students, handles payroll and training, provides free transportation and matches $1,000 in hourly wages, and in return local businesses commit to offering six-week summer jobs to students. Through the program, 5,000 students had jobs in just the first year and gained important real-world skills.

Digital inclusion is a top priority of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. To give residents access to high-tech tools, he outfitted more than 30 city parks and senior centers with computer labs offering free internet access. Mayor Regalado is also working with technology companies and internet providers on low-cost options for residents and businesses to buy their own computing devices.

To support their residents in pursuing their ambitions, mayors need to make 21st-century technology available, create policies that help the underserved, engage in public-private partnerships and focus on education.

Read other innovative ways mayors across the country are creating more opportunities for their constituents.