Apr 25, 2011
People used to get confused when Jim Capraro would deny that a new supermarket in a blighted community — which he’d worked years to open — was a win for economic development.
He explains it, in a fascinating post for the blog of a new community development institute, in terms of a neighborhood’s “trade deficit.” A grocery store recirculates some of the money spent by residents into local paychecks, but most of the money leaves the community to pay for the food. Actually growing a local economy requires exporting something – goods, services, labor – that brings new money into the community.
Capraro, who retired last year after 35 years at the helm of the Greater Southwest Community Development Corporation, now consults around the country on creating sustainable communities for LISC’s Institute for Comprehensive Community Development. (The Boston Globe recently caught up with him training local leaders in the hometown of one of his heroes, Jane Jacobs.)
He writes about the lessons learned over his years of work in Marquette Park, helping a hole-in-the-wall joint with great pizza grow into Giordanos, working with the CTA to build the Orange Line, and convincing Nabisco to modernize its Southwest Side plant where Oreos are made – the largest bakery in the world – rather than moving the operation to Mexico.