Economic development must include workforce development, says James Stuckey.
According to New York real estate developer James Stuckey, throughout the last decade urban centers have seen substantial development and redevelopment, particularly in downtown districts. However, James Stuckey points out that, while much of this has been accomplished in the name of economic development, little has been done by way of workforce development. Recent studies have found that in certain areas of Brooklyn, the unemployment rate for black males over 25 years of age is more than 65%, reports James Stuckey. Few job-training programs have proven effective, and with a substantial amount of entry-level manufacturing jobs disappearing in American cities, James Stuckey has noticed that opportunities to enter the workforce are vanishing as well.
Many neighborhoods in cities around the nation are also experiencing other pressures that result from development, says James Stuckey. Low-income minority families are being pushed out of their homes as a result of gentrification. James Stuckey laments that in many minority neighborhoods, lung disease and other illnesses traced to environmental factors are substantially higher than more affluent districts. The same neighborhoods also tend to have limited access to lower-priced supermarkets and other retailers, as well as quality healthcare, notes James Stuckey. It is commonplace for people in poor areas to have to travel long distances or take precious time off from work to get routine medical exams, such as blood tests x-rays or MRIs, says James Stuckey.
James Stuckey also relates that there are constant tensions that play out between labor unions and minority and women contractors, which further exacerbates the difficulty in creating wealth in lower income communities. Minorities are indeed making up a larger number of union workers. James Stuckey says this is primarily because many non-minorities – in what was formally a father-son network – are now more interested in highly education and in working in an office environment. Unfortunately, women have not fared as well, explains James Stuckey.
Minority and women contractors however, have faced serious obstacles in securing work on major public or economic development projects, reports James Stuckey. Unions frequently require such firms to give up all other nonunion work in order to participate in these developments, which James Stuckey points out effectively bans them from procuring these contracts. In addition, minority and women contractors are barely able to meet the bond requirement of lending institutions. Developers, fearful of crossing either the unions or the lenders, are also concerned that inexperienced contractors will have difficulty working within prescribed budgets and schedules, rarely take the risk of hiring these firms, says James Stuckey.
Inner-city residents, notes James Stuckey, are particularly hard hit by changing employment patterns globally. It used to be that major corporations moved only their manufacturing overseas; James Stuckey points out that today they are also outsourcing their accounting and back-office functions to India, China, and Vietnam. James Stuckey says that because of such migration, many immigrant and people of color in low-income neighborhoods are being relegated to retail and maintenance jobs that offer little opportunity for advancement.
There are, however, initiatives underway to correct these social inequities, says James Stuckey. Many cities are implementing programs to offer micro-loan programs to locally owned start-ups as well as creating smaller divisions within the construction trades to make it easier for minority and women owned firms to qualify for contacts and meet bonding requirements.