Major Initiative - Action Greensboro
The Cemala Foundation is a founding member and long-time supporter of Action Greensboro, which was created in 2001 to spur the community to action. Action Greensboro's over-arching goal is to enrich the local environment so that Greensboro will enjoy more and better paying jobs, enhancing quality of life for all.
In 2000, at the suggestion of Cemala Foundation Board Member, William Hemphill, retired president and chief executive officer of United Guaranty, Cemala and other local foundations engaged McKinsey & Company to examine the state of Greensboro's economy. The McKinsey report compared Greensboro with similar cities and projected where the city was headed unless major initiatives were undertaken. The report outlined an agenda for community discussion and action.
Once the report was released and discussed broadly throughout Greensboro, the foundations established Action Greensboro with a core committee of business and civic leaders setting its direction. Aiding the effort was an ever-expanding group of citizen volunteers known as the Groundbreakers.
Action Greensboro was dedicated to breaking new ground by:
- Creating an economically vibrant community where individuals could find the foundations to build their lives
- Fostering an environment that attracted business and industry and stimulated business formation and development
- Developing a dynamic urban core
Initially, Action Greensboro focused on six key interrelated issues outlined by the McKinsey Report and designed to Break New Ground:
- Attracting and retaining young professionals
- Developing and marketing Greensboro's image
- Enhancing and reinforcing the existing business community and recruiting new business and industry
- Fostering small business development and entrepreneurship
- Improving the center city
- Improving public education
Since 2000, Cemala has remained committed to the collaboration of Action Greensboro foundations, which has included Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Cone Health Foundation, Ellison Family Foundation, Tannenbaum-Sternberger Foundation, Toleo Foundation, and the Weaver Foundation. In 2006, Action Greensboro joined forces with the Chamber of Commerce and the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance to form the Greensboro Partnership.
Most recently, Action Greensboro has centered its attention on core areas that are critical to the community and where improvements will have the greatest social and economic impact. This Phase II of Action Greensboro builds on the community's strengths and focuses on:
- The Center City because Downtown is the heart of the city and there is commitment to strengthen it and maintain it as a robust hub.
- Public Education where children deserve first-rate public schools to achieve their full potential. Good schools are crucial for economic development.
- Higher Education since Greensboro's colleges and universities are the community's greatest asset and have potential as economic generators.
The Cemala Foundation supports all projects of Action Greensboro; moreover, it has provided funding for many projects including this Phase II of Action Greensboro:
- Center City Park. This $12 million park is located in the heart of downtown Greensboro. The mission of Center City Park is to serve as a central gathering place for Greensboro's residents and visitors in a setting that is both relaxed and lively. See www.centercitypark.org for more information.
- Greensboro Downtown Economic Development Strategy. Developed in partnership with the City of Greensboro and Downtown Greensboro, Inc., the strategy melds 11 plans produced for downtown since 1995 with over 100 potential projects into six high-impact recommendations. See the plan here.
- Development of a Center City Master Plan. This plan was developed through a community process led by Cooper Carry Center for Connective Architecture in Atlanta. Cooper Carry is one of America's most dynamic, context-driven design firms focused on the creation of EXCEPTIONAL PLACES. The Master Plan led to the development of five districts or neighborhoods, a commitment to develop housing in the center city, the design and construction of the New Bridge minor league ballpark, Center City Park, the Downtown Greenway, and much more. For additional information, visit Action Greensboro's Resource Page.
- Downtown Greenway. Setting Greensboro apart from other communities will be a 4-mile paved urban trail encircling downtown and connecting more than a dozen different neighborhoods. The $26 million dollar Greenway is a public/private project of the City of Greensboro and Action Greensboro. The Greensboro Bicentennial Commission, appointed by City Council to plan the celebration of the city's 200th year in 2008, adopted the Downtown Greenway as the signature project for Bicentennial commemoration. Additionally, the Greenway is expected to be an economic development generator as research shows that for every $1 invested in the Greenway, the community can anticipate $5 to $12 of additional investment. The groundbreaking for the initial phase of the Downtown Greenway took place on March 9, 2009, and construction began on the second section in April of 2011. For more information about the Downtown Greenway, visit the Greenway site.
Downtown Greenway Planned Route
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- Entrepreneurship Programs. Since 2001, Action Greensboro has invested in organizations that enhance the regional climate for entrepreneurial success with concentration on high-growth industries. Investments include TriadInternNet and Piedmont Entrepreneurs Network.
- Housing Incentives for the Center City. The Center City Master Plan developed in 2002 called for the addition of 100 residences a year in Greensboro's Center City. With Downtown Greensboro, Inc., a residential incentive fund was established to pay the interest on a construction loan until the unit sold or for two years whichever was the shortest. Once the downtown housing market was hearty, the fund was depleted.
- Programs to Enhance the Public Schools. No focus area is more important to Action Greensboro than public school education. Cemala and/or the other Action Greensboro foundations have supported Businesses for Excellence in Education, the Guilford Education Alliance, and a variety of innovative programs for the public schools.
- Marketing and Promoting the Center City. To support the development of the Center City Master Plan and the many investments made in the Center City, a variety of marketing and promotional initiatives were funded in the first three years of Action Greensboro's Breaking New Ground.
- Technology Outreach. Early-on, there was funding for N.C. A&T's Technology Transfer Outreach Initiative designed to create business opportunities for exchange between the university and entrepreneurial communities.