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HUD No. 02-008OKEZ
Scott Hudman
(817) 978-5965
For Release
Tuesday
January 15, 2002

HUD Announces Community Revitalization Efforts -- Oklahoma City Receives New Empowerment Zone

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced an estimated $17 billion in tax incentives to stimulate job growth, promote economic development and create affordable housing opportunities in eight new Empowerment Zones across the country. These Empowerment Zones will encourage public-private collaboration to generate economic development in some of the nation's most distressed urban communities.

The new urban Empowerment Zones (EZs) will receive regulatory relief and tax breaks to help local businesses provide more jobs and promote community revitalization. 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.

Oklahoma City's selection was based on their ability to maximize the benefits of the Empowerment Zone designation, which lasts until December of 2009. At a press conference in Oklahoma City, Congressman Frank Lucas joined HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Don Mains and Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphries in announcing the new designation and it's benefits for Oklahoma City.

"These tax incentives are an excellent tool for fostering a robust economy," said Mains. "This critical partnership between the public and private sectors will give local businesses in distressed neighborhoods an economic boost to help drive revitalization, provide jobs and ultimately build a foundation for stronger communities."

"The key to revitalizing urban areas is to bring new businesses to the area," Lucas said, "The best way to do that is with tax incentives. This empowerment zone designation will help get this area back on its feet, providing much-needed jobs to the area and helping the citizens and businesses in the community to get back on track economically."

Congressman J.C. Watts added, "I applaud the designation of these Empowerment Zones. The zones will create the conditions for eight communities to begin an upward growth path, and to realize the American Dream. Encouraging business development and new jobs is something I have supported my entire time in Congress. This particular announcement couldn't come at a better time"

The Oklahoma City Empowerment Zone will use the power of public and private partnerships to build a framework of economic revitalization in areas that experience high unemployment and shortages of affordable housing.

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.

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 30 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 and changing the designation of two Supplemental Empowerment Zones to the full status of EZs.

The 2000 Community Renewal Tax Relief Act established this round of Empowerment Zones. 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´┐Żs strategic plan.

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Content Archived: April 9, 2010

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