At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we understand the critical role of the private sector in creating vibrant communities. From community engagement to providing jobs—the strength of a locale and its people is directly tied to the strength of private sector investments. A recent study by the Economic Innovation Group found that most economically distressed communities have seen zero gain in employment or business growth since 2000, and half of adults living in distressed ZIP codes do not have the education or training to find employment in the modern economy
Often, the most effective ways to turn around a struggling community is through business investment, growth, and opportunity.
While nonprofits and government can help, true change takes place when residents have pathways to good jobs. When people have meaningful job opportunities, other important community characteristics such as safe neighborhoods, access to nutritious food, and high-performing educational systems follow.
New for 2017, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation will honor three businesses with the Revitalize America Honor at this year’s Corporate Citizenship Awards gala November 15. These honorees are helping build stronger communities by investing in employment opportunities anywhere in the U.S.
The Dow Chemical Company
The Dow Chemical Company has been part of the Brazosport community for nearly 80 years. About 7,000 people work at Dow’s site in Freeport, Texas, with 50% of employees living in the towns of Lake Jackson, Freeport, and Clute, which make up the Brazosport region. Already the largest petrochemical company in Texas, Dow has added more than $5 billion in new manufacturing units on the U.S. Gulf Coast in the last five years, creating 500 jobs locally and supporting thousands of jobs nationally.
Dow believes in serving as an active member of the Brazosport community. The company invests more than $1 million annually in STEM education initiatives and local nonprofit organizations such as United Way and Habitat for Humanity. After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Dow’s employees volunteered to support recovery efforts in the broader Houston metro area.
By investing in both jobs and the community, Dow ensures long-term success for people across America.
When Shinola was founded in 2011, it was the belief that products should be well-made and built to last. As makers of modern watches, bicycles, journals, jewelry, leather goods, and audio equipment, Shinola stands for the perseveration of craft and the beauty of industry.
For six years, the company stuck to its core mission and created jobs and products to be proud of. Shinola hired hundreds of people in Detroit and across the country. The company also built factories and supplied the capital and connections for key suppliers to expand their existing operations, and equipped employees with the technical skill and craftsmanship to succeed in the workplace and life.
The company’s largest investment in people and place is in Detroit, Michigan. Shinola employs more than 600 people worldwide, with more than 350 working in Detroit. There are between 200 and 250 employees in manufacturing at any given time, depending on production needs.
Elkhart is home to the headquarters of Thor Industries—one of the world’s largest manufacturers of recreational vehicles. The company’s investments in jobs and opportunities helped Elkhart earn the title of “RV Capital of the World.”
Since the Great Recession, unemployment in Elkhart has dropped from 19.3% in 2010 to under 4% in 2017—in part due to investments made by Thor.
The company has plans to continue its growth. Over the past three years, Thor has grown its staff by 44%—providing strong employment opportunities to the people of Elkhart.