1st Edition

Sustainable Communities Creating a Durable Local Economy

    312 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    312 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    With a foreword written by Senator Bernie Sanders

    What is a durable economy? It is one that not only survives but thrives. How is it created, and what does it take to sustain over time? Sustainable Communities provides insight and answers to these questions.

    Citing Burlington, Vermont's remarkable rise to award-winning status, this book explores the balance of community planning, social enterprise development, energy and environment, food systems and cultural well-being. Aimed at policymakers, development practitioners, students, and citizens, this book describes which and how multiple influences facilitate the creation of a local, durable and truly sustainable economy. The authors hope to inspire others by sharing this story of what can be done in the name of community economic development.

    1. The Quest for a Durable Local Economy  2. Localize and Socialize  3. Welcome One, Welcome All: Economic Inclusiveness  4. Crunch and Funk: Cultural Vibrancy  5. I’m Ok, You’re Ok… Social Well-Being  6. Glowing and Growing – Energy and Environment  7. Tasting as Good as it Looks… Local Food System Sustainability  8. Summing Up  Appendix A: Accolades List.  Appendix B: Twenty-five Year Timeline and Milestones.


    Rhonda Phillips Community well-being is the focus of Rhonda's research and outreach activities. Author/editor of fifteen books on community development and related topics, she offers both practice and academic perspectives on the ever-changing topic of community revitalization. Formerly a Senior Sustainability Scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability and Professor in the School of Community Resources & Development at Arizona State University, Rhonda serves as Purdue University's inaugural Dean of the Honors College.

    Bruce Seifer is a consultant with deep experience in economic development. He led the City of Burlington Vermont's Economic Development efforts for three decades, providing technical assistance to 4,000 businesses and numerous non-profits. Bruce frequently speaks at national forums on policy and strategy, city revitalization, and program design and evaluation.

    Ed Antczak After 20 years in business, Ed joined CEDO's Economic Development Division in 2003 focusing on assisting businesses at all stages of growth, managing a revolving loan fund, and being a member of various development project teams. He currently serves on the steering committees of several national Sustainable Economic Development organizations.

    Rhonda Phillips, Bruce Seifer, and Ed Antczak have written about sustainable economic and community development from a great point of view. They have actually done it. Based on their extensive experience in Burlington, Vermont, a city of 40,000 in Northwestern New England with a long history of commercial and industrial development, the three authors have put together a terrific combination of theory and practice in writing about this popular and elusive goal. This is a scholarly work and a how to manual wrapped together, and it has a happy ending. Burlington is fast becoming one of the most sustainable and livable cities on the planet. Howard Dean, former Vermont Governor 1991-2003

    If you want to actually know how to build a great and vibrant community, here's the down-and-dirty details from the people who've done it. Absolutely essential! Bill McKibben, author, Oil and Honey: the Education of an Unlikely Activist

    Burlington is one of those places that offers both opportunity and inspiration to its residents and businesses. This book provides insight into how community inclusion and vision became business as usual in this small city…with remarkable results. Jerry Greenfield, Co-Founder, Ben and Jerry's

    Burlington is an amazing city, with innovations that make the mind race. How did they do all this? Their successes in creating one of the country's most economically viable cities isn't born of luck, nor is it the work of socialist, ice-cream eating hippies. It is the product of hard work, focus and a fierce commitment to the power of community. The authors have penned a book that should be read by everybody who is working for a new economic vision for America. College students, social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, city administrators and every elected leader in America. Our economic recovery won't be achieved by big projects or multinational businesses. The future isn't in that direction. As Burlington proves, it's as easy as looking in your own backyard. Robert Egger, President LA Kitchen & CForward www.lakitchen.org

    This is a truly invaluable book! Building upon the exemplary experience of Burlington, Vermont it offers real guidance on how to achieve sustainability, community wealth-building, worker-ownership, and democratic control. A must read for practioners, scholars and students concerned with rebuilding the American system from the ground up on strong principles anchored in strong communities. Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and author, What Then Must We Do?

    In an era of a dysfunctional federal government, Sustainable Communities: Creating a Durable Local Economy reminds us that change at the local level is possible and that we can all be the better for it. Phillips, Seifer and Antczak document a remarkable adventure set in Burlington, Vermont which demonstrates how indigenous leadership coupled with a strong sense of community can make a difference. They have a written a playbook for transformational change that matters and which can be sustained. Nicolas P. Retsinas, Director Emeritus, Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies

    Sustainable Communities represents a groundswell of local initiatives; a bottom-up alternative that recaptures the creativity of civic spirit, and the melding of practice and vision. Vermont and Burlington in particular have been blessed with leaders committed to building a community that works for all, and does it with a lively spirit. Bruce Seifer has spent decades as one of those leaders, and Sustainable Communities: Creating a Durable Local Economy delivers on its promise, offering inspiring and practical lessons on what works, the application to other towns and cities, and even some implications for the nation. Paul Freundlich, Founder and President Emeritus, 'Green/Co-op America'

    This book tells the story of one of our best models of a sustainable and desirable community in the US. We desperately need these models and we even more desperately need to spread the word about how it happened and what we can learn from it. The world is approaching a tipping point and with the help of models and books like this we can help it tip into something much better. Robert Costanza Chair in Public Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University, Canberra

    We are in DEEP SHIFT! Sustainable Communities is an essential and practical guide to building resilient, equitable and lively communities that will be well positioned for the economic and ecological changes ahead. The Burlington VT story is inspiring and replicable. Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy Studies and the Resilience Circle network (localcircles.org), Boston, MA

    A beautifully organized how-to-book demonstrating the many ways municipal governments can work hand-in-hand with business and engaged citizens to build a local economy that is green, fair and fun. This real-life working model offers an invaluable tool to the localist movement. Judy Wicks, Co-founder of BALLE and author, Good Morning, Beautiful Business.

    Sustainable Communities is more than a case study or how to guide to make your own ‘durable local economy’ for those already engaged in community development. The City of Burlington, VT itself is an inspiring story. Perched on the northern shores of Lake Champlain, it has become a beacon for those looking for fresh ideas, new business models, and the keys to creative, fun neighborhoods. The real take away for all of us who care about the places where we live, work and play is this: it all starts with, revolves around, and depends on people. Sustainable communities engage people at all levels and sectors - social, cultural, environmental, political. I have seen it work in my own backyard, Bath, ME, recognized as one of the 'Best Small Cities in America'. Read this book; you may be inspired to unleash your own inner ‘civic entrepreneur’ and contribute to making where you live a more durable, sustainable place. Eloise Vitelli, Arrowsic, Maine (Just across the river from Bath)-Director of Program and Policy Development, Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community

    This informative and detailed book provides insight, examples, and, best of all, hope – about the possibilities of creating a strong, equitable and inclusive local economy. Well-written with many cases, examples and practical information, the authors draw on years of experience to show how to build an economy that works for the private sector, the public sector and residents of the community. The book will certainly appeal to community and economic development practitioners both within and outside the United States. Michael Swack, Faculty Director, Center on Social Innovation and Finance, The Carsey Institute, University of New Hampshire

    For 30 years, Burlington Vermont has been intentionally making its economy stronger and more resilient. Here is the detailed back-story: rigorous attention to existing local employers, affirmative entrepreneurship aid to single mothers and immigrants, employee ownership assistance, import substitution, cultivation of environmental resources, creation and preservation of farmland and local farm-consumer linkages, birthing two dozen specialized non-profits, promotion of arts and culture, post-industrial place-making, strategic and sparing use of incentives—and marketing the resulting successes! Every local official or activist seeking inspiration should explore this book. Greg LeRoy, Executive Director, Good Jobs First, Washington, DC

    Burlington Vermont may be the best model we have for the Next Economy (the one we need to replace the one we've got, which just isn't working, plain and simple, for our planet and most of the people on it). This is a wonderful story about combining enlightened community development, strong civic partnerships, and 30 years of hard work to assemble the components of a restorative economy for the future. John Abrams, President and CEO, South Mountain Co., Inc. and author, Companies We Keep.

    For more than a decade I've admired the authors and their leadership in Burlington. Theirs is an example of a community being the change that's needed. And now I'm so grateful for this book, which lays out for all of us, a framework and the essence of what it takes to build a durable local economy. Michelle Long, Executive Director, BALLE: Be a Localist

    Economic development is a field largely populated by charlatans hooked on attracting and retaining global business. But slowly, inexorably, an alternative school of thought is emerging on the virtues of local small business, and Rhonda Phillips, Bruce Seifer, and Ed Antczak are among its most important theorists and practitioners. Sustainable Communities is a fabulous distillation of what really works. The transformation of Burlington, Vermont, into one of the nation's most successful and resilient municipal economies should be required reading for economic developers and development-minded policymakers, funders, and academics worldwide. Michael Shuman, author of Local Dollars, Local Sense

    This is a must read for every public official, especially town managers, mayors, administrators and select men and women who want a view of the possible in leading positive change in their communities, creating livable jobs, and using their powers as elected or appointed representatives to offer the Municipality writ large as an organizing catalyst to important economic, social and environmental outcomes as if people mattered. Historically, community-based economic development and CDCs (community development corporations) arose in the civil rights era of the 1960s as an antidote to the failure of municipal government to serve as a locus of economic opportunity and enfranchisement of people and communities out of the economic mainstream. The authors' book turns this fact of history on its head with a real life historical documentary of the Municipality of Burlington, Vermont’s record of practice and policy of community-based economic development.  Springing from sound economics and redefinition of a return on investment to include both the social and environmental benefits to be gained, whether from mainstreet small business shops featuring locally-made goods and foods, affordable housing, or high quality and environmentally-sound manufacturing ventures, the book chronicles the important work of the town’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO). Its cast of public officials led the town into a variety of partnerships with the private as well as nonprofit third sector and now the so-called fourth sector of social enterprises, yielding a picture of how a municipality can help build sustainable, healthy and "resilient" communities – that is, communities that can bounce back if the people are engaged. Ron Phillips, president, CEI ~Capital for Opportunity & Change, Wiscasset, Maine