Identify Your Leadership Team
The key to building a successful plan is leadership. Leadership comes in all forms and should include representation from every part of the community, especially communities with low income and communities of color that have been left behind. From resources, to connections, to information, these leaders will bring different assets to help guide each step of the transition from taking stock and gathering facts, engaging the community, building your community goals, and taking action.
Transition is a complex process. As the plan comes together, everyone will have their own interests, priorities, and values. Look for transition team leaders who are knowledgeable about the economy of the community and region, have knowledge of the impacts of the closure, are trusted by the community, and have influence with others who might provide resources to support your effort. Those whose lives are impacted the most or who have been sidelined or overlooked in the past should be at the center of the decision-making process. And remember—the most effective leaders for transition may not be the “usual suspects.”
While it may be challenging to find the right person, it is important to engage the plant or mine owners in the conversation and potentially invite them to join your transition team. They can provide essential information about the decommissioning and closure as well as possibilities for reuse or redevelopment of the site.
Some members of your leadership team may be involved during the entire process. Others might best contribute during certain phases. Throughout the process, leaders must create a safe space for engagement that allows all impacted stakeholders to feel comfortable participating. This is necessary to ensure that the community visioning process is authentic and meaningful.
Your Transition Team
Your Transition Team might include:
- Individuals from federal, state, regional, and local government bring knowledge of municipal processes, including land use and zoning requirements, options for legislative actions, and environmental policies and processes for remediation.
- Labor representatives bring knowledge of worker needs and skill sets that can be beneficial when planning for retraining and workforce development programs.
- Community members, including residents and business owners, bring knowledge of community assets, needs, and skill sets.
- Environmental and economic justice organizations bring knowledge of legacy environmental impacts and expertise organizing with those most impacted by the closure.
- Non-profit or faith-based organizations may help foster trust and bring volunteers and other resources.
- People from academia bring research resources and potentially knowledge from other cases of economic transition.
- Tribal communities bring knowledge of community needs and assets.
- Philanthropic groups bring resources to nascent efforts and can help get transition planning processes off the ground.
- Issue experts, including school finance practitioners, local taxation and finance managers, realtors, community planners, union leaders, and economic development professionals, can contribute valuable information to help move the process forward. Each of these groups works within a framework that is essential to understand and will influence your success.
- Representatives of the utility and owners of the site have decision-making power and bring knowledge of site infrastructure and plans for the future.
Build Your Community Profile
Transitions that succeed are the ones that are rooted in facts—not assumptions or rumors. When you know the facts, you can plan for the future with more certainty.
Take time to understand how local government, taxes, and the community function. The more you understand the interconnected workings of your community, the more you can understand which details may be affected by the closure, and where ripple effects will occur. Be honest about what you still need to know and don’t hesitate to ask leaders in your community, in the state, or at federal agencies how you might obtain the information or connect to expert resources.
As you begin to shape your plan for transition, information gathering should be ongoing. Depending on how your community goals develop, you’ll likely need to learn more detail about taxation, public finance, workforce retraining, or other issues identified during the process. The following questions are designed to help you think through the potential impacts of a plant or mine closure in your community.
Where do tax dollars originate currently and how are they spent?
What percentage of your community’s tax revenue comes from the plant or mine? Some tax revenue serves as leverage or as a match for other sources not dependent on the tax base, such as health department funds for vaccines, emergency services, or fees for regional waste authorities.
If your community can no longer provide its share, will it put state or federal matching funds at risk?
Are state sources available to supplement needed matches or fees to other agencies when an economic shift in a community occurs? Know the timing of revenue sharing, tax collections, and fiscal years. Learn how funding calendars can be synchronized or staggered to the best effect.
What’s the value of the nonfinancial support the community gets from the utility or mine in question?
Learn how much it would cost in user fees, for example, to field sports teams the company sponsors, to provide employees with temporary housing, or to underwrite arts or special events. These are all important, even if they sit at the lower end of the impact continuum.
How might the social and cultural fabric of the community change?
When people relocate, they take their talents and passions with them. That can change how a community functions from a social or cultural standpoint. In smaller communities, such impacts can be more apparent than in larger communities. You may not be able to quantify these kinds of changes until later in the process, but it is important to identify community aspects that have thrived because of the talent and organizations that support them.
What are the properties and structures the mine or utility will leave behind after closure?
How much land does the company own and/or control? Think about the future value of this land and how it can be used in the best interest of the community after the closure. How might the community influence future development of this land? Are there legacy environmental issues to consider in redevelopment?
What will a closure do to your community’s infrastructure?
Think about the function of roads, ports, rail lines, rail spurs, sewer lines, water lines, well heads, drainage, transmission lines, landfills, emergency services, and other pieces of infrastructure that are connected to a plant or mine that will be closed. Are there service agreements between the host community or other municipalities that will be affected? Map and quantify what these relationships are and what the likely financial and service impacts will be.
A Note About Funding
Throughout the transition process, access to funds will be important and ongoing. Knowing what funding resources are available to your community early in the planning process can help.
A wide range of federal funding is available to assist communities with transition planning and implementation. The Just Transition Fund has a long track record of helping communities to access these funds. Below are some of the most common federal programs that support various aspects of transition.
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)
- Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER)
Small Business Administration
- Business Loan Program
- Entrepreneurial Development Programs
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development
- Intermediary Relending Program
- Rural Energy for America Program (Grants and Loans)
- Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program
U.S. Department of Labor
- Black Lung Disability Trust Fund
- Re-Employment, Support, and Training for the Opiod-Related (RESTORE)
- Workforce Opportunity for Rural Community (WORC)
U.S. Economic Development Administration
- Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance
- Build to Scale
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Brownfields Grant Funding
- Recreation Economy for Rural Communities
A comprehensive list of federal programs that provide grants, loans, and technical assistance for community-based economic development projects may be found in our resource Federal Programs for Communities in Economic Transition.
In addition, the Initial Report to the President on Empowering Workers Through Revitalizing Energy Communities also lists existing sources of federal funding available to Energy Communities.