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CUOMO TELLS CONFERENCE THAT EMPOWERMENT ZONES SUCCEED IN SPARKING $4 BILLION IN INVESTMENT AND CREATION OF ABOUT 20,000 JOBS
WASHINGTON - Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities created by the Clinton Administration are a success story because they have generated an estimated $4 billion in private investment, helped create about 20,000 jobs, and helped provide education and job training to nearly 45,000 people, Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo told a conference today.
Cuomo was the luncheon speaker at the White House Community Empowerment Conference, which brought together about 2,000 local government officials, representatives of community development groups, business executives and others from around the nation to discuss ways to revitalize economically distressed communities and create jobs. The theme of the conference, which began with a morning keynote address by Vice President Gore, was "Opening Doors to the New Economy."
"Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities are transforming some of our poorest neighborhoods in America and transforming the lives of some of the poorest Americans," Cuomo said in remarks prepared for the conference. "Our mission to build healthier cities for the 21st century is a mission to build a healthier America for the century ahead. Failure is not an option. We must succeed."
In addition to discussing job creation and economic revitalization initiatives, those attending the conference came to learn more about President Clinton's proposal seeking $1.5 billion in the 1999 federal budget for the creation of 15 new urban Empowerment Zones in America's inner cities, along with five new rural Empowerment Zones. The Zones use performance grants and tax incentives to stimulate local economies and boost employment.
Many of those at the conference were from communities seeking designation of certain neighborhoods as one of the new Zones.
Another proposal in the President's budget that was discussed at the White House Conference was for $400 million in grants for a Community Empowerment Fund to stimulate an estimated $2 billion in private investment in America's cities to create and retain an estimated 280,000 jobs.
In 1994 the Clinton Administration selected 72 urban and 33 rural Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities. They are receiving more than $1.5 billion in performance grants and more than $2.5 billion in tax incentives over 10 years.
In January this year, Los Angeles and Cleveland were designated full Empowerment Zones by the Administration, joining the existing Zones: Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, New York City, and a two-city Zone covering Philadelphia and Camden. Zones receive a higher level of benefits than Enterprise Communities.
The President's State of the Cities report, issued last month, says Clinton Administration policies have brought important progress to our cities, but that much more remains to be done. The report says urban America is rebounding and in the best shape in a decade but still faces the decades-old triple threat of concentrated poverty, shrinking populations and middle-class flight.
The State of the Cities identifies three critical challenges for cities: creating jobs for low-skilled workers, improving schools, and increasing the supply of affordable housing. It says these challenges arise from what it calls opportunity gaps dividing cities and suburbs: the jobs gap, the education gap, and the housing gap.
"In our most distressed urban neighborhoods, these gaps are the size of the Grand Canyon," Cuomo said. "It's going to take a lot of hard work, but we need to narrow this great divide to become the One America that the President, the Vice President and all of us know we must become."
"We need to fulfill the promise of America -- opportunity for all on an equal playing field," Cuomo said. "The American Dream belongs to everyone in our nation - no matter where they were born, no matter where they live, no matter how poor they are, no matter what their color, no matter what their ethnic heritage."
Content Archived: January 20, 2009