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2023 AARP Livable Communities Economic Development Workshop

The session recordings and transcripts are available by following the links on this page

Graphic for the 2023 AARP Livable Communities Economic Development Workshop, a free online event September 27 - 28

AARP Livable Communities

The nation's cities and towns have changed over the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic conditions and transformations in how people of all ages and life stages live, work and play. Big city downtowns are struggling to fill vacant office spaces while small towns experiencing population growth are trying to meet growing infrastructure and housing needs.

The AARP Livable Communities Economic Development Workshop explored how local leaders can advance economic development in urban, suburban and rural communities by: 

  • Establishing vibrant Main Streets and encouraging small-scale development
  • Ensuring that communities are well-connected with high-speed internet access
  • Providing entrepreneurial and upskilling opportunities for residents of all ages
  • Recognizing the value of unpaid contributions, such as volunteerism and caregiving

Through four core themes — The Built Environment, Digital Connections, Work and Jobs, and Local Economies — the workshop shared best practices, insights and inspiring next steps for meeting the economic development needs of communities today.

Members of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) who attended the workshop were able to earn 0.5 Certification Maintenance (CM) credits for each keynote presentation and each panel for a total of no more than 3 CM credits. 

The Workshop: A Summary

The workshop showcased livability strategies and programs that benefit local economies for people of all ages.

Other Workshop Videos 

Videos about several economic development-related projects were aired during the workshop. Click on the titles below to learn more and see what was shown.

Day 1: Wednesday, September 27

Welcome Remarks 

Featuring Mike Watson, director of AARP Livable Communities, Coralette Hannon, director of AARP Government Affairs/Livable Communities, and Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief engagement officer. 

Watch the Welcome Remarks video »

Keynote Address by Deb Socia 

Deb Socia is the president and CEO of The Enterprise Center, a nonprofit that nurtures innovation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with the goal of connecting people to resources and building an inclusive community. 

Watch deb socia's keynote video »

Plenary Panel — The Built Environment

The panel discussed the ways livability features — such as multimodal transportation, housing diversity and vibrant downtowns — positively impact local economies.

MODERATOR: Shannon Guzman, is the director of Housing and Livable Communities for the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Watch the Built Environment Panel Video »

Conversation — Digital Connections

The discussion focused on the ways access to high-speed internet (i.e., broadband) increases economic development, provides opportunities for business growth, advances upward mobility and promotes independence.

MODERATOR: Dawit Kahsai is a director with AARP Government Affairs. He works to increase high-speed internet access and affordability for older adults.

  • Mignon Clyburn is principal at MLC Strategies and a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. During her tenure, the FCC shaped a framework to better enable entrepreneurship and innovation in diverse, underserved and marginalized communities.

Watch the Digital Connections Conversation Video »

Conversation — Local Leaders Taking Action

This discussion featured two mayors who are fostering transformative economic development in their communities.

MODERATOR: Nancy LeaMond is the executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer for AARP. She has responsibility for driving AARP’s social mission on behalf of Americans 50-plus and their families. She leads the government affairs and legislative campaigns for AARP, which is widely seen as one of the nation's most powerful advocacy organizations.

  • Bryan Barnett has served as the mayor of Rochester Hills, Michigan, since 2006 and is the city's longest serving mayor. His administration has received local, national and international recognition for innovation, fiscal responsibility, operational excellence and environmental leadership.
  • Indya Kincannon has served as the mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, since 2019. Her administration is working to provide equitable access to services, economic development projects, affordable housing and high-speed internet in rural areas.

Watch the Local Leaders Conversation Video »

Day 2: Thursday, September 28

Welcome Remarks 

Featuring Mike Watson, director of AARP Livable Communities, and Carly Roszkowski, vice president, AARP Financial Resilience. 

Watch the Day 2 Welcome Remarks video »

Keynote Address by Ilana Preuss

Ilana Preuss is the founder and CEO of Recast City. She works with local officials, real estate developers and civic leaders to integrate spaces for small-scale producers into redevelopment projects and place-based economic development that build economic opportunity for more people.

Watch Ilana Preuss' Keynote Video »

Conversation — AARP Community Challenge Grantee Interview  

This conversation highlighted a 2021 AARP Community Challenge grantee’s economic development initiative (called “Launch Pod”) and the ways the project has encouraged local entrepreneurship and activated public spaces.

MODERATOR: Mike Watson is the director of AARP Livable Communities. 

Watch the Grantee Interview Video »

Plenary Panel — Work and Jobs

The panel discussed how workforce upskilling and support for small businesses can help revitalize communities. 

MODERATOR: Denise Bottcher is the director of AARP Louisiana.

  • Mauricio Garcia is the senior vice president for programs at UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. 

Watch the Work and Jobs Panel Video »

Plenary Panel — Local Economies

The panel discussed how livability efforts enable residents to support the economy through paid and unpaid contributions, such as volunteerism, caregiving and charitable donations.

MODERATOR: Tricia Sandiego is a senior advisor for AARP Caregiving and Health.

  • Lily Hoffman is the associate director of programs for Habitat for Humanity International's housing and community strategy. She works to support the Habitat network in implementing strategies that improve racial, health and housing equity.
  • Heather Black is the vice president of United Way Worldwide's 211 system strategy. She previously served as a vice president for United Way of North Carolina. 

Watch the Local Economies Panel Video »

Discussion Groups

As the final workshop activity each day, AARP hosted small-group conversations between workshop participants about critical economic development-related topics. (These sessions were not recorded.)

  • It’s Not Economic Development If It’s Not Sustainable 
    Is it possible to have thriving and resilient communities that align with sustainability goals? Workshop attendees spoke with experts about how economic development doesn’t require leaders to compromise on their values.
  • Housing to Support Economic Development 
    Middle income and age-friendly housing is workforce housing. Workshop attendees spoke with experts about how workforce retention and housing stability create a strong economy and livable communities for all. 
  • Rural and Urban Digital Access for a Thriving Older Adult Population
    In today’s world, digital access is a must-have for maintaining a robust, quality workforce. Workshop attendees spoke with experts about the different digital needs of different communities. 
  • Tapping Into Older Workers and Volunteers to Lift the Local Economy
    Older adults can be assets to local economies as both workers and volunteers.  Workshop attendees spoke with experts about strategies that help communities to see the value of older workers. 
  • Living Near Transit: What Does It Mean for Workers?
    Transportation is a lot more than just getting people from Point A to Point B. Workshop attendees spoke with experts about the ways affordable, convenient transit options are critical to a thriving economy and a robust workforce.
  • Rural Challenges in Economic Development
    Workshop attendees spoke with some of the Innovation Showcase presenters about economic opportunities in small, less densely-populated places.

Page updated October 2023

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