July 2011 heralded great news for the city of Memphis and the Office of Talent and Human Capital: the White House selected Memphis to participate in a six-city pilot program named "Strong Cities, Strong Communities." As described by Melody Barnes, the former Director of Domestic Policy Control and advisor to President Obama, "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" is a new interagency pilot initiative that aims to strengthen neighborhoods, towns, cities and regions around the country by strengthening the capacity of local governments to develop and execute their economic vision and strategies." The program will send a "Community Solutions Team" to Memphis to reside in the Mayor's office that will give advice to and increase the capacity of the Mayor's staff. In addition, a fellowship program will place mid-career professionals throughout the city's agencies to help achieve our city's goals and priorities.
The eighteen-member delegation to Memphis, spearheaded by Lavon Thomas, has outlined five work priorities:
- Create Safe and Vibrant Neighborhoods
- Grow Prosperity and Opportunity for All
- Invest in Young People
- Advance a Culture of Excellence in Government
- Strengthen Federal Parternships
With the help of eleven federal agencies, the team in Memphis has worked on projects ranging from efforts to fund Shelby Farms, to expanding public transit, to aiding in the creation of a 311 system, to increasing the Small Business Administration's loan portfolio in Memphis, just to name a few of the team's many current projects. Testament to Mayor Wharton's efforts to attract national interest to Memphis, Strong Cities, Strong Communities brings federal dollars and, more importantly, human capital in the form of policy experts to Memphis to promote economic growth and government efficiency, making Memphis a better place to call home.