Demelza Baer's Work Featured in Governing

Governing reports: 

In Newark, N.J., where the unemployment rate is well above the state and national average, less than 20 percent of the jobs are filled by Newark residents. In Baltimore, a third of residents have jobs in the city where they live. In New Orleans, it’s 46 percent.

Among the city's 20 biggest employers -- colleges, hospitals and corporate headquarters -- only three percent of the money they spend on buying goods and services goes to vendors in Newark.

This helps to explain why one in three Newark residents live below the poverty line and why the city lost population for decades. But Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants to turn those numbers around. His solution -- an initiative called Hire. Buy. Live. -- could provide other local governments with a playbook, some say, for spurring economic development in a way that prioritizes the welfare of residents...

Though the immediate goal is to hit Baraka's benchmarks, Demelza Baer, senior counsel with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and a member of Newark's coalition, says the broader objective is a culture change among the city's employers that makes local hiring and procurement a permanent part of their mission.

"What we really want to see," she says, "is that an initiative like this isn’t necessary anymore."

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