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HUD No. 02-008FREZ
Larry Bush
(415) 436-6532
For Release
January 16, 2002

HUD Names Fresno as New Empowerment Zone, One of Eight U.S. Cities Eligible for $17 Billion in Tax Relief to Stimulate Jobs

WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced Fresno's selection as a new Empowerment Zone eligible for a share of $17 billion in tax incentives to help new businesses locate and existing businesses to expand. Fresno competed against 35 other localities for one of the eight Empowerment Zone designations authorized in the 2000 Community Renewal Tax Relief Act.

"These tax incentives couldn't come at a better time," said Nelson Bregon, HUD's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development "This critical partnership between the public and private sectors will give local businesses, in distressed communities, an economic boost to help drive revitalization, provide jobs and ultimately build a foundation for stronger communities."

"This Empowerment Zone designation represents an historic investment in our community and offers Fresno an unprecedented opportunity to turn our inner city into an economic powerhouse," said Fresno Mayor Alan Autry. "This announcement clearly demonstrates that our commitment to teamwork within the City of Fresno continues to produce outstanding results."

The new Empowerment Zones (EZs) will receive regulatory relief and tax breaks to help local businesses provide more jobs and generate community revitalization Empowerment Zones use the power of public and private partnerships to build a framework of economic revitalization in distressed communities that experience high unemployment and shortages of affordable housing.

In winning the Empowerment Zone designation, Fresno received a large volume of solid commitments from the City, institutional partners, private economic development entities, private workforce and Community Development Agencies, private businesses, U.S. Government and state elected officials.

Included in the $17 billion tax relief package, an estimated $6 billion in incentives are exclusively available for Empowerment Zones across the country. As distressed communities, Empowerment Zones will also be eligible to share in an additional $11 billion in Low-Income Housing and New Market Tax Credits.

These new Ezs can take advantage of wage credits, tax deductions, bond financing and capital gains to stimulate economic development and job growth. Each incentive is tailored to meet the particular needs of a business and offers a significant inducement for companies to locate and hire additional workers.

Fresno proposes a unique multi-dimensional marketing approach to encourage participation by business managers, investors and potential employers. It has targeted census tracts within the "downtown triangle," an area that exhibits the characteristics of a highly distressed community. The City will serve as the lead implementing entity in coordinating EZ programs with Fresno Renaissance, an unincorporated association comprised of EZ residents, business stakeholders, community-based organizations and county and city officials.

The Fresno Empowerment Zone takes in six census tracts with poverty rates from 33% to 57%. The area's unemployment rate of 26.1% exceeds the national and state level, as well as the Fresno level of 12.9%. Per capita income in the area is $6,542, and Median Household Income is $14,052. Both measures are below the same indicators for the national, state and city figures. The area's high school drop out rate is double that of the State and local rates.

The other newly designated EZs will be located in Pulaski County, Arkansas; Fresno, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Oklahoma City; San Antonio, Texas; Yonkers, New York; and, Tucson, Arizona.

Tax Credits

  • Wage credits are especially attractive to businesses looking to grow. These businesses are able to hire and retain Zone residents and apply the credits against their federal tax liability. Businesses located within the new Empowerment Zones will enjoy up to a $3,000 credit for every newly hired or existing employee who lives in the EZ.
  • Work Opportunity Credits provide businesses located with Empowerment Zones up to $2,400 against their Federal tax liability for each employee hired from groups with traditionally high unemployment rates or other special employment needs, including youth who live in the EZ.
  • Welfare to Work Credits offer EZ businesses a credit of up to $3,500 (in the first year of employment) and $5,000 (in the second year) for each newly hired long-term welfare recipient.

Bond Financing

In addition to the wage credits, there are significant tax incentives available in support of qualified zone property and schools with the EZs.

  • Tax-Exempt Facility Bonds help Empowerment Zone businesses to receive lower-cost loans to finance property, purchase equipment and develop business sites within these communities.
  • Qualified Zone Academy Bonds allow state and local governments to match no-interest loans with private funding sources to finance public school renovations and programs.

Capital Gains

Businesses located within EZs can postpone or only partially recognize the gain on the sale of certain assets, including stock and partnership interests. This benefit significantly reduces the capital gains tax liability on businesses located with these designated areas.

Tax Deductions

  • Under Section 179 of the tax code, businesses located with EZs may claim increased expensing deductions up to $35,000 for depreciable property such as equipment and machinery acquired after December 31, 2001.
  • Environmental Cleanup Cost Deductions allow businesses to deduct qualified cleanup costs in Brownfields.

In addition to the incentives described above, HUD will provide technical assistance to these communities to ensure that businesses are fully aware of the many opportunities available to them. To make certain the Empowerment Zones are successful in the initial stages of their designations, HUD will host an Implementation Conference where the newly designated EZs will meet to hear from experts in the fields of business, taxes and economic development. The conference will also provide presentations from representatives from previously designated EZs recognized for their successes in forming public-private partnerships.

Other Incentives

Like all distressed communities, Empowerment Zones will also be able to take advantage of the New Markets Tax Credits that provide investors with a credit against their federal taxes of 5 to 6 percent of the amount invested in a distressed area. Also available to Empowerment Zones is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit providing credit against Federal taxes for owners of newly constructed or renovated rental housing.

Empowerment Zone History

The first six of the current 28 Urban Empowerment Zones were designated in 1994. They were created to establish an initiative that would rebuild communities in America's poverty-stricken areas through incentives that would entice businesses back to the inner cities. In 1998, the Initiative was expanded through a second round, incorporating an additional 15 zones.

The 2000 Community Renewal Tax Relief Act established this round of Empowerment Zone. Successful Empowerment Zone applicants had to satisfy a two-part selection process that weighed certain population and poverty criteria as well as the quality of the community's strategic plan.



Content Archived: April 9, 2010

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