At the close of the 1990s, the Denver-metro region had 60,000 union members striving for fair wages and working conditions. At the same time a wide variety of non-profits were working to eliminate poverty. In spite of the natural connections between these goals, there was no institutionalized movement to join efforts and maximize the power of these two progressive movements. In addition, most organizations were focused on state-wide issues, but few were focused on the important decisions being made at the local or regional levels.
FRESC was founded in the Spring of 2002 to forge a lasting connection and grow the capacity of both movements. FRESC also filled a critical gap by including a strong focus on local government spending and policy.
FRESC was founded by the Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF) but quickly incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) organization with a strong base of foundation funding.
Linking Community Benefits to Publicly Funded Redevelopment Government-supported redevelopment and economic development policy is a place where the interests of the union and community movements come together, and this is where FRESC’s work began. In the decades prior to the founding of FRESC, Denver had committed more than a half billion taxpayer dollars to subsidize redevelopment projects. Although the city benefited in many ways from this economic investment, Denver didn't have a comprehensive approach to ensure these economic benefits would uplift communities or working families. FRESC provided a bridge for the union and community movements to join together on large-scale projects and policies with significant potential impact on creation of affordable housing, expansion of good jobs, and the environment. Over the past eight years, FRESC has transformed the approach to redevelopment in Denver, taking the debate from one where public officials said the community had no say in subsidy decisions and the need for community benefits is questioned, to one where the City Council expects community benefits to be achieved on the projects that come before them.
Part of a National Movement FRESC's creation expanded a budding national movement across major metropolitan areas to improve local communities and the lives of working people. FRESC and community-benefit pioneers like the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) formed The Partnership for Working Families (PWF). PWF is a network of groups like FRESC working to build power and reshape urban economies in ways that benefit working families and communities and add-up to national change. More Recently FRESC has grown from just one founding staff member in 2002 (now City Council member, Chris Nevitt) to a diverse staff which includes community organizers, a staff attorney, graduate-level researchers, and an ordained minister. Originally founded as the Front Range Economic Strategy Center, the organization formally shortened its name to FRESC and added the new tag line "Good Jobs, Strong Communities" in January of 2008. Our work has expanded beyond Denver to the entire metropolitan region, including forays into state and national policy with important implications for our local work. FRESC still works to achieve community benefits in key redevelopment projects, but our focus has also broadened to city-wide and regional policies that advance our vision, promoting construction career systems change, and facilitating more robust civic engagement of low and moderate-income communities.