Center for Economic Development Receives Grant
By Ben Dimapindan
The USC Center for Economic Development was awarded a two-year $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to broaden the scope of the center’s applied research and outreach initiatives. The center is housed at the School of Policy, Planning, and Development.
Established in 1996, the center provides a range of services, such as technical assistance, training, policy analysis and resource development, to help communities address critical issues in housing, planning and urban design, job creation, commercial growth and economic development.
Previously, the center was funded by the Economic Development Administration on a yearly basis for $200,000, noted Genevieve Giuliano, professor and senior associate dean for research and technology at SPPD.
Leonard Mitchell, executive director of the USC center, said that the funding renewal reflects both the relevance and impact of its work.
“We’ve been effective in the things we’ve done in the region,” said Mitchell, a clinical professor at SPPD. “And we’ve been called on more and more to do things that can go beyond the region as an export, or as an example, of best practices.”
The new grant enables the center to continue providing technical assistance and outreach across a 21-county area of Southern California and to advance its research on eco-industrial development.
According to Mitchell, eco-industrial development involves “the alignment of factories and production units in such a way that one firm’s waste becomes another firm’s raw material. You can eliminate or minimize waste and increase production efficiency by using waste materials instead of raw materials.”
“There are more efforts being made now by the state government of California as well as the federal government in terms of ‘green’ development, and we’re able to link with them,” he explained.
Deepak Bahl, program director at the USC center, added that the essential goal of its work is to promote job creation, particularly amid today’s steep unemployment rates.
“Ultimately, the focus from the EDA, as well as the Department of Commerce, is to create jobs in economically distressed communities — areas with high unemployment rates and lower income levels,” Bahl said.
Over the years, the center has built a strong record of aiding local communities and agencies throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
The center’s past projects include a comprehensive economic development strategy and a feasibility study for a bus-oriented transit center in Inglewood; a background study for West Hollywood on how changing demographics impact housing needs; and a visual simulation project for Gardena, which later was adopted and implemented.
In addition, the center has done work on a national scale, having conducted smart growth audits and analyzed sustainability policies for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mitchell also noted that SPPD students had “hands-on” participation in each of the center’s projects.
Since its inception, the center has served as the professional outreach arm of SPPD, facilitating collaboration between students and clients.
“We provide students with real-world experiences. All of these projects have a deliverable, a client, a timeline. It’s an opportunity to gain valuable exposure, a chance to meet with clients, perform consulting work and show their product,” Mitchell said. “The purpose is to give our students a window to the professional world.”
Bahl agreed, adding, “The impact on students is the highest contribution of the center.”