Over 1000 leaders from across the social spectrum assembled for the Clinton Global Initiative meeting (http://www.cgiamerica.org) in downtown Denver this week to address an ambitious set of issues surrounding the stuttering economic recovery in America.   Established in June 2011 by President Bill Clinton, CGI America brings together leaders in business, government, and civil society to generate and implement commitments to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, foster innovation, and support workforce development in the United States. Since its first meeting, CGI America participants have made over 300 commitments valued at more than $15 billion when fully funded and implemented.

With all the Clintons and other high profile figures in attendance along with TV crews, it was a highly energized environment for the first all day session.  The Governor of Colorado held opening remarks, followed on stage by Secretary Hillary Clinton who presented award certificates for recent achievements by CGI participants.  Harvard Professor Raj Chetty then gave a revealing talk on his research into the factors influencing upward mobility in the US.  A panel discussion then ensued, which was filmed for an upcoming episode of NBC’s Meet the Press.  Panelists included former President Clinton along with Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and a somewhat contrarian and animated Carly Fiorina, (former HP CEO and Republican candidate for governor of California).  Ironically, in a subsequent one on one interview when President Clinton was answering a question on recent marijuana decriminalization initiatives, the first Cannabis Business Summit was taking place across the street at the Colorado Convention Center.  But that’s another story.

After the extended morning plenary, the delegates divided up into ten working groups, covering various topics such as Community Investing.  The overall approach was very proactive and action oriented.  Each group was to meet three times over the course of the conference to ‘source, develop, and identify’ actionable commitments.  Other themes covered included Workforce Development, Sustainable Buildings, Childhood Education and.

In the afternoon break out on Entrepreneurship there was discussion of the recent growth in crowdfunding, as well as a presentation by a delegate from Indiegogo, one of whose fundraising campaigns (solar roadways) has gone viral. There was also a discussion on social enterprises led by Ashok Reddy, a partner in an emerging market investor called Unreasonable Capital.  One of the areas of deficiency identified in this working group was regarding loans for the ‘missing middle’ segment (under $500k) of small businesses.  Perhaps not coincidentally, the following announcement was released later in the day by CGI:


        Scaling Community Advantage Capital for Small Business (CGI America 2014)

Commitment by: Bank of America; Accion Texas; CDC Small Business Finance; Empire State CDC; Justine PETERSEN; Montana CDC; OBDC Small Business Finance; PeopleFund; Valley Economic Development Center; Bank of America; The U.S. Small Business Administration

In 2014, Bank of America, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and eight leading Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) committed to significantly scale up small business lending under the SBA Community Advantage Loan Program in the range of $50,000-$250,000 which is critical to small business growth. Bank of America and its partners commit to loan $175 million to 1,750 small businesses by 2017, and creating or retaining more than 23,000 jobs.

The afternoon plenary, moderated by a rather pregnant Chelsea Clinton, consisted of a lively panel discussion on education and workforce development.  Among the panelists were US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Eric Spiegel, CEO of Siemens USA.  The importance of apprenticeships and other types of on-the-job training were highlighted.  Siemens employs 53,000 workers in the US, largely in its advanced manufacturing operations for various large industries.

Over 100 commitments were subsequently announced at this CGI meeting including:


·         Investment and Training for American Infrastructure (CGI America 2011)

Commitment by: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

Partners: American Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Union Labor Life Insurance Company

In 2011, The AFL-CIO committed to encourage the investment of $10 billion in workers' capital and skilled labor to catalyze the large-scale reconstruction of America's built environment. Raising their investment goal with contributions from CalPRS, CalSTRS, and teacher and public employee funds the AFL-CIO has, to-date, financed creating more than 33,500 and training 900,000 workers.


·         Empowering Collegeville through Neighborhood Renewal (CGI America 2014)

Commitment by: City of Birmingham

Partners: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; City of Birmingham; Regional Planning; Commission of Greater Birmingham; Alabama Department of Transportation; University of Alabama at Birmingham;  Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health


In 2014, the City of Birmingham, and their partners committed to empowering and renewing the community of Collegeville through sustainable, resilient development, including social remediation, structural renovations, and the creation of new green space.


·         Building a Predictive Grid in the Motor City (CGI America 2014)

Commitment by: Tollgrade Communications

Partners: DTE Energy

In 2014, Tollgrade Communications committed to building a Predictive Grid around the Detroit metropolitan area.  Working with DTE Energy, Tollgrade will deploy their smart grid sensors and predictive grid analytics software within DTE's distribution grid to enhance energy reliability by preemptively identifying and addressing power outages.


·         Green Business Development in Indian Country (CGI America 2014)

Commitment by: Trees, Water & People

Partners: Lakota Solar Enterprises

In 2014, Trees, Water & People (TWP), with Lakota Solar Enterprises, committed to a major expansion of their successful green job skills training program for Native Americans. The commitment will provide Native Americans on 14 Great Plains Reservations with the technological skills needed to join the new energy economy, empowering them to create their own economic opportunities that protect the planet, bolster their communities, and inspire the next generation.

This sampling of CGI initiatives, along with other efforts such as rolling out electric school buses, will hopefully contribute to the sustainable economic recovery that Americans are eagerly waiting to take hold.  With growing inequality in the country, initiatives such as major infrastructure and renewable technology investment could be critical in keeping the recovery’s momentum going forward.  The next annual CGI America annual meeting will be held this September in New York City.