Place-based initiative celebrates six achievements for its sixth anniversary

Birthday cake with 6 candle and blue ribbon

Dec. 15, 2023

In 2018, the Upjohn Institute launched Promise: Investing in Community, a major research initiative designed to explore how communities can create broadly shared prosperity by helping residents get and keep good jobs.

Now, in honor of this initiative’s upcoming sixth birthday, we take a look at six effects it has had, and continues to have, in communities across the country and the country as a whole.

Screen shot of Bartik policy paper that inspired Recompete Act

Inspiring federal legislation to invest in distressed communities

In 2022, Congress passed The Rebuilding Economies and Creating Opportunities for More People to Excel (RECOMPETE) Act, which will allocate $200 million to persistently distressed communities toward grassroots efforts to create and connect people to good jobs. Policy recommendations stemming from the initiative’s economic distress research directly influenced  this legislation.

Our research shows that federal investments should target areas where employment rates for prime-working-age individuals (those ages 25 to 54) are low. It also demonstrates the benefits of targeting job creation in distressed places are nearly four times that of targeting job creation in booming places. The first phase of the RECOMPETE program, administered by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), received 565 applications for four to 8 spots, the largest applicant pool of any national EDA competition to date.

Playing a leading role in helping communities broaden access to and affordability of higher education

So you want to build a promise program

In small cities and across entire states, we have worked with more than 40 communities to design and improve place-based scholarship programs. Whether we’re creating a cost estimate or conducting a large-scale evaluation, we seek to enable communities—most recently, in Columbus, Ohio, and Battle Creek, Michigan—to create programs that are equitable and inclusive. Toward this effort, we received a grant from the Kresge Foundation to bring together over a dozen researchers to create the Free College Handbook a guide for policymakers to understand how reducing college costs can simultaneously help students and bolster the places they live. Additionally, we have created the Promise Program Database to educate stakeholders and policymakers regarding the design of Promise programs. We are also a key partner in the PromiseNet conference, the leading convening of place-based scholarship practitioners and researchers, which most recently met in Detroit in 2023.

Bartik incenctives model webinar

Giving decision makers the tools to realistically evaluate business incentives

When designed correctly, business incentives can create jobs, boost earnings, increase property values, and provide state and local governments with more revenue. To help users assess tax breaks offered by state and local governments, the initiative’s Bartik Benefit-Cost Model of Business Incentives allows users to input data about proposed incentives and promised jobs. The model focuses on tangible benefits and costs of incentives for state residents and includes information on how different income groups benefit allowing users to examine how equitably these benefits are dispersed. Combined with the Panel Database on Incentives and Taxes, our work stands at the cutting edge of understanding the true costs of business incentives and how their usage varies from place to place. Notably, our research illustrates how the benefits and costs of incentives vary with job multipliers, whether the incentives target distressed places or the unemployed, and how incentives are  funded. Encouraging policymaker attention to these issues helps inform and improve policy choices.

Teaming up in our local community to fully understand how the Kalamazoo Promise is making a difference

The Kalamazoo Promise Sweet 16

We play a leading role in research and evaluation activities surrounding the Kalamazoo Promise, which guarantees full college scholarships and supports to potentially every graduate of Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS). Through partnerships with KPS and the Kalamazoo Promise, we produce annually updated statistics on usage and college success measures. Our peer-reviewed research has shown how the Kalamazoo Promise has increased rates of college enrollment, degree attainment, and earnings. Our highly visual summaries and reports have helped demonstrate the outcomes of this program to the broader community.

Title slide from MMA workgroup presentation

Partnering with policy makers to implement effective, evidence-driven, place-based policies

To date, we have worked with stakeholders across six different states to provide evaluations on topics such as place-based scholarship programs and business incentives. Additionally, we’ve been invited to provide testimony to policy makers on a variety of topics from cost-effective economic development strategies to attracting and retaining residents to the long-term effects of high-quality pre-kindergarten education. We offer our expertise to inform policy decisions and discussions.

Leading the conversation through connection and content

Each year, we convene our network of research affiliates and policy advisors to discuss big ideas in place-based research and how to best connect these ideas with local needs. The research we produce is used and read by a wide range of audiences, from legislators to business leaders to advocacy groups. Our work connects with our audiences to spark new ideas about the future of place-based policy.

Date: December 15, 2023