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County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
December 11
New NACo Publication: Spotlight on Large Urban Counties

​Written by Kathy Nothstine​, NACo Program Director.

The Port of Miami Tunnel project will open up potential for heightened port activity while easing congestion and supporting new development in downtown Miami (image source: Flickr user JohnPrieur).

The National Association of Counties released a new report today profiling how large urban counties in the U.S. are driving economic recovery, fostering community resilience and pioneering new approaches to public service.

America’s large urban counties—defined as those counties that are home to 500,000 residents or more —are at the vanguard of developing solutions to meet the needs of diverse populations and foster economic growth. At a time of shrinking federal budgets, divisive national politics and slow-moving global economic recovery, county officials often find they must solve problems of all types and sizes at the local level.

Spotlight on Large Urban Counties: Leadership in Action highlights noteworthy initiatives of 23 of America’s large urban counties. Covering such topics as economic development, health, justice, resilience, technology, and transportation and infrastructure, the case studies featured here showcase how county officials have seized opportunities to not only meet critical needs, but to strengthen local communities and improve the outlook for growth.

Viewing these examples collectively, several themes emerge:

  • Multi-Sector Partnerships. Counties are partnering with public agencies at all levels of government and collaborating with the private sector more than ever. Miami-Dade County helped to arrange a public-private partnership to develop the $904 million Port of Miami Tunnel, expected to ease congestion downtown and promote growth in port activity. Los Angeles County agencies teamed with the local transportation authority and area businesses to address child sex trafficking and provide specialized treatment for hundreds of young victims.
  • Investments to Drive Economic Growth. Counties are placing a premium on catalytic public investments that will offer economic and community benefits for years to come. Hennepin County (Minn.) brokered a public-private partnership to develop a major mixed-use transit hub that will spur investments and change the landscape of downtown Minneapolis. Shelby County (Tenn.) is working with local governments, industry leaders and a host of other stakeholders to develop a long-term regional plan to guide infrastructure development and economic growth.
  • Streamlined Services for Dependent Populations. Counties are working to better serve dependent populations who frequently cycle through county jails and health care facilities at high costs to the public. King County (Wash.) created a set of strategies to serve people living with mental illness and substance abuse, aimed at reducing unnecessary involvement in justice and emergency medical systems. Travis County (Texas) partnered with a nonprofit to serve inmates with addictions, reducing likelihood of recidivism and promoting long-term recovery.
  • Youth Engagement. Counties are investing in young people to train a skilled workforce and engage youth in the community. For example, Multnomah County (Ore.) established an internship program to provide low-income and disadvantaged youth with quality employment opportunities. Douglas County (Neb.) developed a collaborative public art project that engages young artists and juvenile offenders.

Indeed, counties of all sizes across the country persist in taking the lead on economic recovery and service delivery. By continuing to share examples like these, we can promote increased dialogue and peer-learning among county officials and their partners seeking to provide creative solutions to critical metropolitan needs.

Read the report here.​


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