Maurice Jones is president and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, a national social enterprise that invests in creating inclusive communities across America. Rip Rapson is president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, a private, national foundation dedicated to expanding opportunities in America's cities through grant-making and social investing. He also serves on the LISC board of directors. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.
(CNN)There is a high-stakes race afoot for America's nearly 32,000 underinvested communities. State officials are fast approaching a March 21 deadline to determine which communities will have the chance to attract trillions of dollars in untapped capital and the new housing, businesses and jobs it could support.
- Patient, flexible capital. These aren't tech startups sprinting toward a big windfall; they are small towns, urban neighborhoods and farming communities that are a vital part of America's economic backbone. Investors need to take a real-world view of what level of profitability is possible and how quickly it can be realized. When done right, with thoughtful plans and committed partners, community investments can deliver both financial return and impact.
- Strong social infrastructures. There is no substitute for boots on the ground. When it comes to community investing, it takes solid networks of nonprofits and socially motivated for-profit enterprises to lead revitalization efforts. It's one of the reasons that Kresge and LISC have focused so heavily on building the expertise of community-based organizations and supported their strategic planning. Without that demonstrated capacity to meet the expectations of both residents and investors, capital is likely to gravitate toward opportunities that don't add value to the community, or to look to other places altogether for investment.
- Comprehensive community plans. A single development project, on its own, isn't generally enough to spur significant change. Instead, investments should be part of broader place-based strategies to support jobs, entrepreneurship, education, health and safety — all in the same place at the same time. Each investment reinforces the others. Family incomes rise. Businesses flourish. People live better.
- A bedrock of public-private partners. This kind of investing is not new; it rests on a time-tested ecosystem of community-based organizations, businesses, foundations, intermediaries, investors and government agencies, all working together to test promising ideas and drive programs that spur economic mobility.