I live in the Toledo, Ohio metro area. My hometown is near Detroit, and the economy was built on automotive, glass, and other heavy manufacturing industries. That meant people here already been struggling for years with fewer and fewer job opportunities when the official economic downturn hit. Things seem pretty bleak. In suburban areas not built for pedestrians, I see more and more people walking along busy streets with no sidewalks, presumably because they have lost their cars (or have too many DUIs, also potentially related to the downturn). I see a lot of cars parked along the streets with "For Sale" signs in the windows, and I see even more "For Sale" signs in front of houses that look like they've been vacant for quite a while. I know quite a few people who are on public assistance for the first time in their lives, people who never expected to need that kind of help.
In the face of a Congress that seems more intent on scoring political points than helping the economy, things feel a little hopeless. I really was happy to see Starbucks team up with the Opportunity Finance Network to create a new jobs initiative. Starbucks is seeding a jobs fund that will go to small community lenders to help fund small business projects that wouldn't interest bigger banks, but that could help make a difference on a local level:
Beginning November 1st, you may donate to this fund through the createjobsforusa.org website, or at Starbucks, and 100% of your donation will go directly to the fund. Donors who contribute $5 or more will receive a red, white and blue wristband with the message “Indivisible.” The really cool thing about this is that every $5 donation will result in $35 in financing to support community businesses, because the local lenders will issue $30 in financing, on average, for each $5 donation -- every $3,000 in donations creates or saves a job. You can read all about it on the Web site.The website says that the wristbands are American-made, which means that they are already helping to create some jobs. More details about the manufacture of the wristbands are posted on the company's blog.
BlogHer is helping to promote this project, and as a BlogHer member, I am happy to help get the word out. I have seen some cynical comments on news stories about the effort criticizing the effort for being too small or for being funded by a for-profit company. However, I think that it's about time that some entity decided to start the conversation about what can be done to start getting people back to work. The effort reminds me of KivaCity, which also seeks to make a difference through small business loans. The great thing about the Starbucks initiative is that the marketing power behind one of the USA's most successful brands will now be promoting the idea of community action. I can't see how that can be anything but positive.
For more information, go to the createjobsforusa.org website, visit the project's facebook page, or follow @Jobs_For_USA on twitter.
I think tomorrow sounds like a good day to splurge on a Pumpkin Spice Latte and a wristband. I can wear the wristband when I vote on Tuesday.