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HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman
Empowerment Zone Event
with President Clinton and Vice President Gore

May 25, 1999
University of Texas-Pan American
Edinburg, Texas

SECRETARY GLICKMAN: I am Dan Glickman. I am Secretary of Agriculture, and along with Andrew Cuomo, we're here to make a couple of quick remarks and answer your questions.

Let me just make a couple of points. Obviously, what happens to urban America affects rural America, and vice versa, given the mobility of the population. And our job is to make sure that the underserved, underdeveloped areas of both urban and rural America are served by these empowerment zones. And we are in a rural zone right here, a very successful one.

And it is something that is critically important to recognize that rural America has a higher rate of poverty even than urban America does. And the problems associated with rural America are often worse because of sparse populations, because of distances, because of the inability often to get services because on a per capita basis water, sewer, transportation is much higher.

So we have -- in rural America there are a lot of the same problems that are in urban America, and I just thought I'd mention a couple of things that have happened because of the empowerment zones and enterprise communities. One is that the northeast Louisiana Delta enterprise community was responsible in the town of Tulula, Louisiana, to bring 1,000 shipbuilding jobs -- the Avondale Shipbuilding Company located there because of the community's cooperative effort to provide the infrastructure and technical assistance to bring those jobs there. Let me tell you, in Tulula, Louisiana, a thousand jobs is like 100,000 jobs or 500,000 jobs in Detroit or Chicago or San Francisco.

Another example has to do with in Itabena, Mississippi, in the middle of the empowerment zone on the Mississippi Delta, a $900,000 investment in infrastructure was made so Dollar General Stores, a large retailer, could open a distribution facility in a town of less than 15,000 people. That distribution facility now employs 350 people and 150 more are expected in the next couple of years. Again, 500 people in a town like that is like 100,000 people in the city of Denver or Seattle or San Diego.

So I think one of the reasons why we're so excited about this and why you're here in the Rio Grande Valley is that rural America has very distressed parts of it; agriculture is hurting right now; the ability of bringing people together to create jobs in rural America can keep folks in rural America, so the don't have to leave and go to the larger population areas where the problems are as severe in many cases.

We've had great successes. The trick is, as the President and Vice President both said, is to bring people together in a cooperative spirit to help provide the catalyst -- the catalyst -- so the people can do their best.

I recall, it was this morning somebody reminded me that old country song, is says, "if you've got the money, honey, I've got the time." Well, I think what people are saying to us is, if we can provide some of the assistance, they'll provide the capital, they'll provide the time, they'll provide the effort in order to get things done. And that's what they've done here and that can happen all over rural and urban America as well.

So with that, I introduce my colleague, the distinguished Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

SECRETARY CUOMO: Thank you very much. Dan Glickman, as you heard, and I run the empowerment zone program together, as two Cabinet-level officials. Obviously, the United States Department of Agriculture is responsible for the rural zones, and HUD is responsible for the urban zones.

The Vice President and the President said it very well inside. This is a six-year process. It's amazing how fast the time has gone. But when Governor Clinton became President Clinton, one of the first things he talked about was empowerment zones, a new way to do basically antipoverty programs. It wasn't even called empowerment zones at that time. They put together working groups, came up with a "third way" to do this. It wound up being called empowerment zones.

Six years of experience - the Vice President was tasked by the Vice President to develop the empowerment approach and implement it. The Vice President grabbed hold of the task with both hands, went all across the country talking to the communities to ask what they needed done. He came up with an approach which put cash grants together with tax incentives, cash grant awards and tax incentives.

The concept was to lure businesses into areas that were at a competitive disadvantage and to excite and mobilize the community to do that. Those were the two very different prongs; a real, bottom-up community mobilization, get people at the table, everyone at the table together; and an incentive to get businesses back. Because this was not about community involvement for the sake of community involvement. It was about community involvement for the purpose of bringing jobs back to the distressed communities.

First round, six zones on the urban side; second round, build on the success of the first round. And this conference is basically a convening of the zones from all across the country.

One of the major assets in this event has been allowing the zones and the communities to share experiences with each other, because there are very few things that need to be done that aren't being done by one of the zones or one of the communities. Being rural or urban, getting them all together in one room and sharing the information and sharing the lessons is a great exercise and great asset.

Don't think of empowerment only in terms of the zones; it is very much now the approach that characterizes this administration's efforts in community development, urban revitalization, rural revitalization. It is a theory. It is a movement. It is a concept that puts business development together with community activism. It uses the tax code to lure businesses back. It's not federal top-down, but it's not a laissez-faire, leave it up to the private market, either.

The new iteration of it is called the New Markets Initiative, which the President talked about, which is the next step in the empowerment agenda. A lot of excitement in the room as there should be, because there are a lot of good results to show for what we've done already.

Thank you very much.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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