City Budget Cuts Could Prove Rough For Grassroots Investment Group

Sep 11, 2013

A lean city budget is threatening funding for the Jacksonville branch of the Local Initiative Support Corporation; a national, nonprofit organization that helps grassroots and other nonprofits transform communities into healthier places to live.

Credit LISC

Janet Owens, executive director for LISC Jacksonville LISC, said LISC is an economic development engine aimed at attracting people to the community by improving the quality of life for families to thrive and businesses to grow.

For nearly ten years, the city of Jacksonville has invested in LISC, but like many programs in the city's annual budget the organization has recently sustained cuts.

Owens said LISC received $463,980 this fiscal year from the city and next year's budget would be reduced to $399,023. That figure is based on Mayor Alvin Brown's proposed 14 percent across-the-board cuts.

However, Owens said funding for LISC has not been included in this year's budget negotiations.

"Without funding from the city, we would no longer have the conduit we've had in the past to make the investments in the neighborhood," Owens said

The Florida Times-Union reported that, thanks to LISC, 227 drug houses have been demolished, more than 3,000 new jobs have been created and hundreds of single-family homes have been built.

"We act as a matchmaker," Owens said, "bringing dollars into the community to create physical development, whether it's housing, commercial or retail space."

Owens said LISC has a business model that requires the participation of local government in order to invest in neighborhoods. She wants city lawmakers to understand the importance of what LISC does.

Through LISC, the city has provided $4 million in investment. As a result, LISC has attracted $42 million to Jacksonville and has yielded $148 million in real estate investment, according to Owens.

"It's a great return on investment," Owens said.

This organization came to Jacksonville as a result of herculean efforts by the Jaguars Foundation, the Community Foundation and the Jessie Ball Dupont Fund.

Owens said there are other LISC models in major cities, like Washington, D.C., Houston, Boston and Richmond, that Jacksonville could benefit from.

Owens is currently working towards better communication with the city council and key stakeholders to show the importance of the organization's campaigns.