Community investment is a strategy of using available resources to create a brighter future for a given community. The process may involve financial investment by large corporations, local business people, or even private citizens and grass roots organizations. In many cases, successfully investing in communities involves a combination of all these resources.
An underlying principle of community investment is that taking steps to better the physical facilities, educational opportunities, or options for employment today will result in substantial rewards for everyone concerned in the future. By making the investment today, there are small immediate awards for the business, such as tax breaks or other privileges offered by the local government. At the same time, the community investing provided a platform that made the community more attractive to potential residents and in general improved the quality of life for everyone.
Many textile companies in the United States employed this formula of community investment in the early 20th century. Corporations would build large manufacturing facilities that provided local employment for residents. At the same time, the company would provide grants to local school systems, encouraging literacy among the next generation of employees. In some cases, the companies even constructed housing in the general area of the manufacturing facility and offered the homes at extremely low rental prices to their workers. Up until the middle of the 20th century, it was not unusual for a family to live in the same house in a so-called mill village for two or more generations, with each generation working in the local mill.
The level of community investment impact varies from one situation to another. Literacy programs, low cost housing, and programs to help the unemployed and homeless get back on their feet are still important to the quality of life in many cities and towns. Today, community investment programs such as low cost healthcare options, substance abuse recovery programs, and the creation of new recreational programs for the general populace are also considered important aspects of making a long term investment in a given locality.
A community investment does not have to originate with a big corporation. Local efforts through a chamber of commerce that include the support of individual citizens, local businesses, and non-profit organizations can make a huge impact. Community gardens to raise fresh produce, collection centers that supply clothing and food to people who are out of work, and classes held at the local high school for people who must gain additional skills in order to obtain a job are all examples of programs that any local community can initiate on its own. These types of self-investing communities not only help to meet needs, but also can increase a sense of self-worth and pride in the community as a whole.