Richmond’s population gains since the 2000 Census marked a reversal from contractions led by white flight and urban disinvestment in prior decades. In addition to its robust population growth, the city began drawing attention for its amenities including an emerging arts, food, and craft beer scene; a vibrant African American culture; and a strong sense of place. Richmond’s arrival on the national stage positions the area as a viable contender for major business recruitment projects and a dynamic hub for entrepreneurial companies and high-growth tech firms. The city’s growth, however, has not been equitable, ranking Richmond among the lowest in the US on key metrics such as poverty and educational attainment. Moreover, despite significant population growth, the city’s employment base has grown more slowly compared to surrounding counties and peer cities across the US.
To accelerate the city’s growth and address its equity challenges, city leaders hired TIP Strategies to lead a team of consultants in the preparation of a five-year economic development strategic plan (EDSP). The planning process launched in August 2019 to coincide with Richmond 300, the city’s update to its master plan, which was adopted in December 2020 to guide the city’s growth until 2037—its 300th anniversary. The TIP team facilitated an extensive outreach process that engaged more than 200 community and business leaders and included an online community survey that received more than 800 unique responses. Along with initiatives related to community building, innovation, and business development, the plan called for the creation of the Richmond Commission for Equity and Growth. The plan also highlighted issues related to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and equity strategies. Specific priorities in the EDSP included expanding capital for minority business growth, provisioning broadband internet for every resident, aggressively pursuing public-private development of strategic City-owned properties in Priority Growth Nodes (identified in the Richmond 300 plan), and establishing Richmond as a nationally recognized life sciences cluster.