In 1994, Norfolk developed an Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community strategic plan with the active participation of over 300 residents, business and community organization leaders, and non-profit and public agency staff. As a result of this effort, the City received an Enterprise Community (EC) designation, along with a $3 million grant over three years. The goals of the EC include supporting economic and employment growth and developing and maintaining a skilled work force. The challenge was to link Norfolk's strengths by creating employment-generating partnerships and networks.
Norfolk Works, Inc (NWI) is the agency charged with carrying out the activities of the Enterprise Community. The current beneficiaries of the NWI program are low to moderate income residents of the EC in Norfolk; the EC includes all eight of the City's public housing communities, two public housing mid-rises for the elderly, five housing conservation areas and six redevelopment projects. NWI provides all forms of ¨employment and education assistance to the residents of the EC and assists businesses interested in relocating to the EC.
One of the most creative and novel aspects of Norfolk Works, Inc. is the collaborations and subsequent partnerships developed by a wide variety of entities to achieve the goals of the EC. NWI officials report they have been extremely successful in fostering communication, coordination and cooperation among almost 40 agencies and organizations to plan, develop and leverage existing resources. NWI also works extensively with the public sector. For example, workers were recruited and trained for referral for employment by the Turner-Curtex construction company, the prime contractor for a $14 million community college campus in downtown Norfolk. Of the 184 individuals who applied through NWI, 56 were interviewed and 50 were hired. NWI has also collaborated with Hannaford's and TWA to recruit, train and refer potential employees. A promising new partnership with NationsBank combines the resources of NWI, the Norfolk Division of Social Services and Tidewater Community College to recruit and train EC residents for guaranteed job placement at the bank.
Two-year statistics provide evidence of achievement of the program's stated goals and objectives: Of the 1,400 citizens who have been served, 314 were AFDC recipients and an additional 261 were receiving food stamps; 843 EC residents were referred to education or training;151 were referred to GED classes; 260 were referred to the NWI Urban Apprenticeship Program; l8O were referred to job readiness; 9O were referred to specialized retail training; 162 were referred to other training; 591 graduated from all NWI programs; 385 got full time job placements.
On April 16, 1997 the City of Norfolk was advised of its selection as a best practice community by the Richmond Area Of ice of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This recognized the community's improved accountability and reporting of Community Development Block Grant-acquired real property through the development of an Automated Land Inventory System (LIS).
Application of CDBG resources toward redevelopment and conservation programs has worked well within the City of Norfolk for over 20 years, but this federal block grant program has undergone major changes during this period. As a result, Norfolk grappled with the need to continue those program models that have worked well so that local flexibility was preserved, even as CDBG record keeping and reporting requirements have become more rigid. LIS was envisioned as a tool that would establish linkages to document Broad National Object (BNO) compliance despite the time that elapses between the expenditure of CDBG funds and the realization of a BNO, principally housing or jobs creation opportunities for low to moderate income persons. CDBG funds are spent for site assembly activities including acquisition, relocation, demolition and disposition. After the parcel has been sold, an affordable housing unit is created or new jobs become available at a new shopping center. However, several years may elapse between site readiness and site development for an end use; therefore, land assets are earmarked to provide a future benefit to low and moderate income persons. As HUD reviews the Consolidated Plan, it presumes that the City's activities will provide the specified benefit; however, through performance reporting and on site monitoring reviews, records are tested to document that the declared BNO was met.
The City of Norfolk contracts with the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) to implement its neighborhood revitalization strategies. The LIS, conceptualized by City and NRHA staff, in collaboration with the HUD Richmond Office, began as a manual system that was updated by neighborhood area project managers. The record keeping associated with this system was onerous and it became apparent that an automated perpetual inventory system which assigns all costs to each parcel was a critical need. In January 1996, NRHA hired a consultant to assist in writing a program for operation in a Windows environment that could capture the combinations and permutations involved in site assembly and disposition. The LIS database was built using LOTUS Approach software.
LIS was envisioned as a management tool for NRHA's Development Division to assist in tracking all expenditure and disposition data for acquired parcels to facilitate documented BNO compliance. It is a resource which would complement the development of marketing strategies. The system would be available to external agencies as well, including the City of Norfolk and the HUD Richmond Office. This will represent an invaluable management tool for internal users, whether programmatically oriented individuals such as project managers, or technically oriented individuals such as accountants, because it has built in features which assure that it is user friendly to all. The system accommodates crosswalks of acquired parcel derivations to disposition parcels whether subdivided or consolidated. The database will not be limited to CDBG assisted parcels. In order to ensure the integrity of the LIS cost data, it can be verified against accounting records.
The Cottage Line neighborhood in Norfolk represented the pilot project. After a successful test period, it is anticipated that the live data will be entered at the start of the new fiscal year and the system will be updated to capture all historical data for earlier acquisitions.
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (757) 664-4679
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.