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Remarks by Secretary Andrew Cuomo
Applachian Summit
Thursday, August 12, 1999

SECRETARY CUOMO: Thank you, good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

SECRETARY CUOMO: It is a good morning, isn't it?

AUDIENCE: Yes it is.

SECRETARY CUOMO: First to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Governor Patton, thank you very much for the kind introduction. Every time I hear them say �the youngest cabinet member' when I was appointed, it reminds me of how old I've gotten since then. (LAUGH) It's just been two years. I want to thank Governor Patton for everything he did to make today possible.

I came down and had a great visit just a few months ago and the Governor laid out his vision for what the state could be doing, and what Appalachia could be doing, and how the Federal government could help. And we did decide on the spot the way to do this is to do it together and just come together and sit down and bring all the players to the table.

The Governor has then been a very important part of President Clinton's New Markets Initiative, which is what we're talking today. How do you bring private sector growth to areas that are not doing as well as the rest of the nation? And the Governor's leadership, and the Governor's energy, the Governor's vision has made today possible. He's made what we're going to do possible and I want to thank him very much for everything he's done. Thank you Governor, thank you for your leadership. (APPLAUSE)

And the Governor's word is "partners" and we do have them all here. Jesse White, who is the great leader of the Appalachian Regional Commission, it's a pleasure to be with him. We have representatives from the Department of Transportation. We're going to have Secretary Rodney Slater here tomorrow. I chatted with him yesterday. He's very excited to be part of this. He's very committed to making it happen. We have representatives from DOT here today. And Department of Labor representatives, Secretary Alexis Herman. I was with her also yesterday, and she's very committed to doing her part.

We obviously have Department of HUD officials, and we have all the senior officials here with us today. Department of Agriculture, Secretary Dan Glickman. And Rural Development representatives are here. So the entire Federal team in one place at one time who actually come up with a comprehensive plan and make it happen. It doesn't happen often, I can tell you that, to get four cabinet departments in one place committed to working together, so let's seize the opportunity.

I also want to thank my team, especially Father Joe Hacala, who you heard from this morning. Joe is a native of West Virginia. He is committed to community development and innovative ways to bring new approaches to community development, is at HUD and has begun an entirely new effort, new institution effort that brings his not-for-profits community groups into the Federal government, and literally has institutionalized their seat at the table. He's worked very hard to make today possible. Thank you Joe Hacala.

And let me begin by telling you the story/joke, depending on whether or not you laugh (LAUGH) of the city slicker and the Appalachian. Have you ever heard this one Governor? I thought it might be appropriate today, I don't know why.

City slicker is driving up from the south, he's driving up back north and he's driving through Appalachia. On his way up, and he's in Kentucky, he's driving through the state, and it's at night time, he's looking for some place to stop, and he can't find some place to stop, and he's a little anxious and a little high strung, and he can't find any place to stop right away, so he's getting a little more exasperated.

He comes across a Goldmark Gasoline Market and he pulls in, and he goes into the market and sees a fellow sitting in the back, the proprietor/owner. And he says, "You know, I've been looking for a place to stop for about 20 miles, I haven't found any place in this state." The owner said, "Yep." He said, "Well where I came from there is a fancy restaurant on every corner, and we have big high rises on every block, and if you want to stop you can stop anywhere." The guy said, "Yep." He said, "You know, your roads here are all curvy and all crooked and you have mountains all over the place. Where I come from the roads are nice and flat and you just drive straight, everything is straight, you can always see where you're going, you don't have any of these mountains in the way." The fellow said, "Yep." He said, "You know, you don't have a single traffic light. Where I come from you have traffic lights, so you know when you're suppose to stop and I've been driving for miles haven't seen a single traffic light." The fellow said, "Yep."

City slicker looked at him and he said, "Let me ask you something else, I need some change, would you mind breaking an 18 dollar bill for me." The Appalachian looked at him and said, "Yep, you want two nines or three six's?" (LAUGH)

The story of Appalachia. This is the reason in the country where we relish storytelling. We communicate through stories and we advance through telling stories. We transfer our culture and our information through storytelling. And you have a very powerful story to tell in Appalachia. The Governor tells it as well as anyone can. Appalachia today is not the Appalachia of 1965 or 1964. It is not the stereotypical Appalachia. It is Appalachia that has made tremendous, tremendous strides and progress. And really has a remarkable story of progress, and growth, and opportunity.

The numbers tell that story clearly. Poverty has been cut in half since 1964, 33 percent to now 13 percent. The number of distressed counties has been cut in half. At one time it was one in two, today it's one in four. Over 3,000 miles of roads built since 1964. One point five million new jobs just since 1989, and the forecast for continued economic growth is two point seven percent. That is a great story of accomplishment, and success, and growth, and partnership and potential, and what we can do when we focus on doing it. What we can do when we say �we're going to come together and we're going to make this a priority.' You have come a long, long way.

But the story also says the final chapter needs to be written. We are not as strong as we should be. Tremendous potential, tremendous possibility demonstrated in progress, but still more to go, still more to go, because we are not a success yet. That is the story of Appalachia, a story to be proud of, a story to tell, a story to relish, and a story to build on. But that story of Appalachia is also very much an American story. Because the story of Appalachia is the story of this nation. Anyone who tells you today �America is as strong as America can be, America is a success, we have hit the ceiling, we have fulfilled our promise, we have reached our goals,' and that's what they tell you, they are wrong. We have much to celebrate, we have made much progress.

President Clinton relishes what we've done with this economy and he should, it is an economy that is stronger than any economy in the history of the nation, stronger than any economy in the history of the globe. So it is a great success story, a great story of progress. And the national economic numbers are strong, like the Appalachia numbers are strong. But that is not success. We have not yet fulfilled the promise. This country is not working for everyone everywhere, just the way there are people that are left out in Appalachia, there are too many other people left out in the American story. Great success, further to go.

Homeownership rate in the United States today, 66 percent, highest homeownership rate in history, great success. But you still have 600,000 homeless Americans who will sleep on the street tonight. Further to go. Stock market, DOW Jones hits new heights almost every day, but tonight you will still have one out of five children sleep in poverty. So much further to go.

More millionaires than ever before, greatest income disparity in the last 30 years. With people in the middle class working harder just to stay even. So much further to go. And it's not just a story of poverty in isolated places. One out of three cities, one out of three cities have a problem with concentrated poverty. More and more of our suburban communities are now getting older, and they are having problems with infrastructure, with poverty. We have poverty in rural America, whether it's Appalachia or whether it's Indian Reservations, or whether it's Delta, or whether it's the Colonias, all across this country. So you are not alone.

What do we do about it? We know what to do about it, as the true success story says. We know what the goal is and we know what the means are. We have spent years learning and years perfecting them. The goal is economic opportunity. The means is the private sector partnership. Those are the two sentences that say it all. We don't want government for the sake of government. We don't want the perpetuation of government programs. The best thing the government program can do is put itself out of business. The best thing we can do with all these governmental efforts is to get to a point where we no longer need the governmental efforts, because we have accomplished our goal. The goal is economic opportunity, only the private sector can do that, government can never do that. Only bringing in private businesses, growth in private business will only make that happen.

But at the same time the private sector opportunity is not going to happen without government. If the private sector was going to take care of these problems we wouldn't be here in the first place. You wouldn't have an Appalachian Regional Commission. You wouldn't need us to be at this conference, we wouldn't need government to be doing these things if the private sector was going to do it in a pure market economy. The private sector in a pure market economy is not going to do it without government providing incentives, initiatives and help to make it happen. So when we said public/private sector partnership let's remember both, both partners have a role if this is going to work. And government's role, even today, is still a very critical role at the table if we're going to make the kind of success that we want to make.

What do we do first? We provide the platform, we build the platform for the economic growth to occur on. We need the platform. You need certain basic infrastructure community services otherwise private sector businesses are not going to work and people aren't going to be in a position to take advantage of it. You need the infrastructure, terrible word, but you need it. You need the water and sewer, you need the roads. If you don't have the infrastructure you can't do anything.

Before you can talk about luring business, attracting businesses, you have to have the platform solid. You need safe, clean, decent housing. You need all of these pieces knit together into something called community. Where you can live and you can work and you can be educated and raise a family. That platform has to be constructed first before we get fancy, and before we talk about the economic development, and bringing in the private sector, get that platform done.

Then once we have the platform we need the businesses. We need the economic development. We need the economic activity. We need the creation of wealth. This is what the government has been working on so hard and so well. And there we're going to need government incentives to bring those private sector businesses in. They won't come in on their own initially. Once we develop the area, once we show them the potential then they will come.

But initially you're going to need an incentive package. Initially you're going to need a sweetener. Initially you're going to have to be able to write down that initial cost of development. And government has a role there. Incentivizing the private sector. Not substituting their poor, but incentivizing. The state can do it with benefits, the Federal government can do it with benefits. That's what we're doing with the empowerment zones, and it's working very well, all across this nation, urban and rural America.

Build that platform, the housing, the education, the infrastructure. And then attract businesses to come to those areas. Using government incentives, tax credit incentives, cash grants, loans, I don't care how you do it, but provide the incentives to bring the private businesses. Empowerment zones does it.

President Clinton was here talking about the New Markets Initiative and APIC, American Private Investment Corporate, which says do for undeveloped areas in the United States what we do for undeveloped areas overseas. OPIC, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, works extraordinarily well to bring private sector companies to countries that need growth across the globe. Providing incentives to bring the private sector company there. Well, if it works overseas, it will work here at home, and that's APIC, American Private Investment Company. Providing incentives to bring companies here. Provide a tax credit, that's the New Markets tax credit that President Clinton talks about. But put that economic incentive package together.

HUD has a number of tools that can do just this. We're working hard to get the President's legislation, but we're not waiting for the legislation. HUD has tools today that can do it. That's what we're doing with our economic development loan programs, and our economic development programs. Economic development initiatives, that's what we're trying to do with the CDBG programs. Use them all as economic development tools to bring businesses in once we have done that platform.

And who does this? Not me, certainly, because I'm far away in Washington, DC. The Governor does it, but the Governor will also be the first to say, for it to really work it's going to have to be totally bottoms up, bottom up. It's going to have to be that community organizing, that locality organizing, coming up with their plan, their vision, their destiny and forging their alliances to make it happen. Community-by-community-by-community, each forming their own plan, partners available on the state level and on the Federal level. But each plan coming from each locality in each community. Unless it happens from that community, it's not going to happen.

People talk about this concept in terms of the Federal government, that is certainly true. We talked about the Federal government, about HUD not setting any mandates, not telling any community, any state what to do, but offering a menu where once the local community decides what it wants, they can select from our menu. But the concept is beyond the Federal government, it's on levels of government. Literally every community, and that's why the whole not-for-profit and community-based corporation movement is so important. Community-based corporation with local government, states, and Federal as partners.

And the other template to make it work are the regional alliances. Appalachian Regional Commission was founded on this premise. It was true 30 years ago, it's more true today. Cities are less relevant, states are less relevant, regions are relevant units in this society. It is a region that is economically competitive, not a town, not a city, not a state. When a business locates, they locate to a region. Does that region, as a region, have the transportation, and have the education, and have the work force, and have the quality of life?

The line between Kentucky and West Virginia is not as relevant as it once was, not when you're talking about the issues we're talking about today. Bottom up, regional alliances, private sector growth, providing that platform, doing it in parts. That is the formula that works. We know it works, it's worked all across this country. You've made it work here in Appalachia. Now we just have to do it.

We have to build on the successes, and you've proven that's about commitment, and that is about determination, and that is about leadership, and that is about will. And that's what this conference is all about. Bringing those elements together to make that formula work. And I believe this: I believe that for many of these issues we've worked on for many years, we have made much progress. But we have heard that there is more to go - and I believe today is a little different. Because I believe when you look at where we are today versus where we've been in the past, we have an opportunity today that we've never had before.

We really do have a moment in history that provides us an opportunity. The President talks about �now is the time to do this,' because we can now. You have the convergence of a few phenomena that are now occurring, that have never come together before, that make this possible on the scale we need to make it possible. You have this economy that is historically strong. Use it, use it, you have the businesses that you need you to grow. What do businesses need to continue to grow at this pitch? They need two things, the economic equivalent of air and water, the new workers and the need for new markets.

Businesses all across the country will tell you they can't find the workers. Where are the workers? The workers are right here in Appalachia. The workers of tomorrow are the unemployed of today. You want to keep growing those businesses, they need the new work force, you have it. They need new markets. Where are the new markets? The new markets are the unspent buying power, consumer purchasing power in rural America and in urban America. You have what this national economy needs to continue to grow. That wasn't true 10 years ago.

You have this economy that is generating resources for us to invest, that's what the government surplus is all about. Because this does take investment, we do have to build that platform, we do have to build the houses, and the roads, and the water, and the sewer and that is investment and we need those resources, but this economy is generating them. That's what the amazing feat of the surplus in Washington is about.

How many years did we say �we can't do these things because government doesn't have the money.' Because we have the deficit, the deficit, the deficit, and that's why we can't provide housing, and that's why we can't build roads. And that's why we can't do water and sewer, because we had the deficit, and we have to pay off the deficit before we can talk about investing in poor parts of America. Well the deficit is gone, God Bless President Bill Clinton, he defeated the deficit. And now we talk about progressive government, intelligent, but progressive government. That's why this surplus, this Federal surplus, antithesis of the deficit, that's why it's such an important moment in history.

You can now invest. You can now do the good things you haven't been able to do for decades, so you can be stronger. Not so you can throw money away, but so you can make more money. Because sometimes it takes investment to breed more investment. It takes money to make money, that's why it's lunacy for Washington, DC today to be talking about taking that surplus and giving back the tax cuts that you can't afford - 792 billion dollar tax cut, giving it back to people who don't need it - instead of investing in the parts of this country that actually have been starved for investment for too long, and give you dividends for generations to come. That's this moment in history.

The economy is strong, we have resources, we have businesses that need us. We have businesses that are more mobile than ever before. This new businessman - the Governor was with him on Air Force One - under the New Markets Initiatives, they can go anywhere. They are not wedded, they are not now in plants that must be large factories, that are in the ground and can't move. You give them a computer or a cell phone, a satellite, and they can go anywhere. That works for Appalachia, because the location is now less of an issue. With this new mobility and this new technology, Appalachia is literally closer than ever before. We have a moment in history. We have to grab it because we don't know when this moment is going to come again.

And many of us who have worked in these areas for a long time - and who hope and dream that one day we can put ourselves out of business, that one day we can conquer these goals - have waited for this moment a long time. Seize the moment, carpe diem, seize the day. That's what this conference is about. Use this moment, use these resources, use the leadership of the Governor, and Jesse White, and the President of the United States, because you don't know when you'll get it again. And how sweet it can be when we really fulfill the promise of this nation, how sweet it can be when this nation is really a success. When we really have fulfilled the original promise, opportunity for all, justice for all, economic justice, and social justice, and racial justice.

The justice of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy, and Mother Jones, that's what the promise of this nation has always been about. We're not there yet, but we can be there. When every man and woman and child in Appalachia has their potential tapped. When every person in every city has their potential tapped, then we will truly be a success. We're not there yet, but together we will be.

Thank you very much. (APPLAUSE) ###

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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