Michael Bloomberg is usually associated with big cities, having once been the mayor of New York. But the successful businessman is focused on helping smaller cities through a new initiative to ensure that small cities and towns can access funds through the federal government’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
The Local Infrastructure Hub initiative was announced in May with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Emerson Collective, the Ford Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation. It will help local leaders navigate the massive amount of information in the infrastructure package, with the ultimate goal of putting small and mid-sized cities in a position to compete for federal grants.
Over the next two years, local governments will be sorting through roughly 400 programs that will provide billions of dollars in funding for a range of projects, from transforming ports and parks to expanding rural broadband and helping tackle challenges such as climate change and racial wealth inequity.
As the Bloomberg news site pointed out, the nation’s biggest cities have an advantage in winning federal grants because they have the financial wherewithal to hire experts and partners who know how to navigate the system. That’s not the case with smaller cities and towns, however.
“Many cities and towns don’t have the staff to identify all the funding that may be available to them,” Michael Bloomberg said. “And once they figure out which funding they are actually eligible for, they don’t have the capacity to complete the necessary applications.”
That’s where the Local Infrastructure Hub comes in – it will bring together leading policy and innovation experts to help cities and towns access federal infrastructure funds. An initial $50 million investment was made to help the initiative get off the ground.
A wide range of organizations will provide support, content, and expertise to the initiative, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and Results for America, a national organization focused on helping government decision-makers use data and evidence to drive results. The African American Mayors Association, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, and the National Urban League.
Here’s how some of the duties and responsibilities will break down:
- The National League of Cities will offer technical assistance to help small and mid-size cities develop competitive funding applications grounded in data, feature detailed project plans, and include relevant policy objectives. This expanded effort builds on technical assistance provided by the National League of Cities in select states with the support of The Joyce Foundation and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
- The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Results for America will launch a series of webinars this summer to help cities identify grant opportunities that align with community needs, get guidance about application criteria and timeframes, and learn about infrastructure innovations and emerging best practices.
Another Local Infrastructure Hub priority will be helping cities develop strategies to put grant money toward innovative solutions to increasingly urgent problems in American cities. High on that list are narrowing wealth disparities and cutting pollution.
A recent column co-authored by Bloomberg, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and National League of Cities President Vince Williams noted that small and mid-sized cities account for more than one-quarter of the U.S. population, making them major stakeholders in the country’s infrastructure revamp.
“To build a stronger economy and spur job growth more broadly across the country, we need [small and mid-sized cities] to help lead the way,” the authors wrote. “In recent years, many places that suffered the loss of manufacturing jobs have experienced a renaissance as they were forced to reinvent. Now they have a chance to win federal support to help accelerate their comebacks. The Local Infrastructure Hub will help them do it.”