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Remarks of Secretary Andrew Cuomo
Economic Development Conference

New York, New York
Friday, June 16, 2000

        Thank you very much Cardell Cooper, our Assistant Secretary of Community Planning and Development. We could not have a better one´┐Ż.We also heard from Congressman Jim Leach, who is the chairman of the Banking Committee, a very, very influential Congressman. Let me say this -- and I can speak honestly now because he's not in the room so he won't use it against me later on -- in Congressman Jim Leach you have a man who remembers that the business of government is fundamentally about public service and not politics.

        And in Washington the politics often rule the day, people are more interested in making a political point than actually doing the people's business and getting something done. But Chairman Leach always remembers that at the end of the day it's about public service. You can agree or disagree, and we have plenty of disagreements, but at the end of the day it is a constructive tension, not a destructive tension. And we should all thank him very much for the good work he's doing.

        We have the Chairman and President of the Ex-Im Bank, Mr. James Harmon, who is doing great work for the nation at the Export-Import Bank. But he is also a New Yorker through and through, also learned from the school of David Dinkins, as did many of us, that there are still places that need help, and we have to get into each community and bring each one of them along and that's when we are at our strongest. And the initiative that Export-Import Bank put on the table today is very exciting. I'll speak more about it in a minute; I think it has great possibilities and I want to thank him for being here with us today and for the partnership they are going to forge with HUD. Thank you very much, Chairman Harmon.

        Let me make a couple of quick points and then I'll let you get on with the real work of the day. First, in some ways you are in a strange location here in Manhattan, because you are in the full glare of the lights that spotlight the new economy and the new economic growth. You are right in the orbit of Wall Street and the stock market, and you are deluged with how strong the economy is doing.

        It is all true. We have the best economic progress in history, some would say the strongest economy in history for business. It is very true that the stock market is doing well and we have more millionaires than ever before and Forbes has a list today of the 400 billionaires who show up to work, because it's a good thing to do with yourself.

        That is a very true economic story, this great economic progress. And the stock market and Wall Street are driving it for the nation if not the world. That's the echo that you hear reverberating between the buildings on Wall Street.

        But there is another story of this economy that is just as true. I can tell you that in the seven years I have been at HUD I have been to places that are as far from Wall Street as you can imagine. I have been to places and seen things that you couldn't imagine were on the same planet as Wall Street and all that economic growth.

        You can go to places in this country, pockets of poverty we call them, that are as desperate as anything you've seen. You can go to Appalachia, you can walk into homes that Bobby Kennedy walked into 30 years ago, and they're almost the same.

        You can see children in Chicago, the Chicago Housing Authority, the Cabrini Greens that you heard about for years, and it is the same -- garbage in the hallways, senior citizens who say, well, I can only go out once a week when they send up the security guard to escort me down to take me to the store because otherwise I'm afraid to go out. Prisoners in public housing.

        You can go see the migrant farm workers in California sleeping in ditches on the side of the road showering in the irrigation pipes that come from the field, washing with the water and the pesticides from the field.

        And you can say how do you talk about this, how do you have this at the same time that you beat your chest and proclaim your economic success?

        And you don't only have those extreme cases, those pockets. You can go to medium-sized cities and smaller cities all across this country and see cities struggling. One out of five cities is smaller and poorer today than it was 20 years ago. Go to upstate New York. Go to Syracuse. Go to Utica. Go to Elmira.

        You don't hear the bell of the stock exchange there. You have cities that are struggling. You have people that are struggling.

        Even within our monument to economic success, even in this great City of New York, the gem of prosperity, with the stock market over 10,000, remember this number every time you hear the number of the stock market: Forty percent of the children in this city live in poverty, twice the national poverty rate. And every time they say 10,000, 11,000, a new record, more millionaires -- remember twice the poverty rate within miles of that great proclamation.

        Which means what? Which means yes, the economy is going well. Yes, that is a true story. Yes, that is a fact. But that is not the conclusion. Economic progress for some does not a national success make.

        What do we do? We help the places that are left behind.

        That's what you do, you people who foster economic development. Why are places left behind? Because the private market doesn't work there, that's why. They are not competitive areas. When the private market shops, they choose not to go to those areas for one reason or another. They are not proximate. The workforce isn't trained. The taxes are too high. The crime is too high. The quality of life is too low. The climate is bad. Whatever the reason, they're not going there.

        What do we do about it? Well, in the past we had two polar extremes in terms of strategy. We had an ultra-liberal and an ultra-conservative strategy. The ultra-conservative strategy said look, if the private market doesn't want to go there there's nothing you can do about it. They're on their own. They're an economic desert. They're an economic wasteland. The private market doesn't want to go to Elmira, Elmira dies because who are we to tamper with the private market? The private market makes a decision and they do what they want to do. And if they decide there is no economy in Elmira, then there's no economy in Elmira and we should not tamper with the private market because that would be wrong.

        The ultra-liberal point of view said well, if the private market won't go there then government can come in and government can provide the economy. And if there's no private housing market, we'll have a government housing market. And then we perpetuate an entire government-based economy, Section 8s, public housing, AFDC, food stamps. There doesn't have to be a private economy because there will be a government economy, a subsistence economy.

        Neither was right. You can't lose the Elmiras of the world and the Syracuses of the world and the one out of five cities that are poorer and smaller. And you can't let the migrant workers in California sleep in the ditch because the private market hasn't gone there. It's not right morally, ethically -- we are a society, we are a community -- and it's not smart economically.

        But on the flip side the solution cannot be a government-provided economy. You pull the incentives out. You pull the reward out, you pull the risk out, and that's not what that community wanted. They only wanted the opportunity to compete and participate like everybody else.

        So use the private market but incentivize the private market to go to places that it would not otherwise go to. That's what we wound up with as an economic development strategy. That is the moderate point. You must use the private sector, you can't do it without the private sector, but we can seduce, facilitate, incentivize the private sector to go where it wouldn't otherwise go.

        So we say maybe you don't want to go to Elmira on your own. How about this? How about if I give you a tax break, will you go to Elmira? How about if I give you a cash grant will you go to Elmira? How about if say I'll train the workforce, will you then go to Elmira? And it becomes a situation at which point the private sector says yes, I will go if you do that.

        And the incentive package is a little bit different in different contexts. So we as the federal government then say we should have a whole menu of options for you to pick from to meet your specific need in your specific area. If the tax incentives work better then use tax incentives. If the cash grant works better, then use the cash grant, if the worker training works better, then use the worker training grant. There is going to be a different combination in each specific area. And then we have a menu and those then become programs -- and then it starts to sound like alphabet soup.

        We have the Empowerment Zone Program that puts a lot of these incentives together: place-based, geographic-based, tax incentives as well as cash grants and social services. That's the Empowerment Zones. We have the EDI program, Economic Development Initiative program -- grants or loans. We have the Community Empowerment Fund program. We have the 108 loan program which I love to use as a model because it shows what we can actually do here. The 108 loan program has done just in the time that I've been at HUD over $4.3 billion in economic development lending, $4.3 billion. These are all loans that the private sector banks didn't want to make. And you know what? We've made money on them. Our loan portfolio is actually a performing loan portfolio, originally turned down by the private sector.

        These are all of the different programs you'll hear about today. Learn them. Take which one works best in your application. The program that Chairman Harmon announced today is really an exciting possibility, and one of the most potent programs that I've heard of, 100 percent financing for women- and minority-owned businesses and a target of up to $100 million in lending. What a great, great program. We're going to sign a Memorandum of Understanding -- we're going to work in lockstep with Ex-Im Bank to try to bring that product to more and more communities. We're excited about that as a tool.

        We're also working on something called the New Markets tax credit program which the President has agreed to with Speaker Hastert, as well as the American Private Investment Companies initiative that will bring about $7 billion more in funding, in economic development funding. So we have the menu, we have the programs, we have the tools in the toolbox. You have to fashion the solution because it is a different solution, a different arrangement, in every community.

        And my last point to you is this. As economic development change agents in your community -- this is is not about the tools and the programs but more about the message that we bring at this time -- we are not asking anyone for charity. We're not saying please help this community because they need a handout. We're saying that helping this community is helping the country.

        You can go anywhere in the country, talk to any businessman or businesswoman. They'll all say we need two things. We need a workforce and we need new retail markets. The workforce and the new markets are today's untapped markets.

        The unemployed of today are the workforce of tomorrow. They can't find enough skilled workers. We are increasing the quotas to bring immigrants in who have the actual skills we need. Why? Because we can't find them in this country. But yet you have unemployed in communities all across the country. Why do we have to import talent? Why don't we just train the talent that we have here at home? That is what we're trying to say.

        We're also saying they have goods to sell, businesses have goods to sell. We have markets that need those goods. Look at 125th Street in Harlem, which people all across the nation point to as an example of possibility. The businesses that are investing in 125 Street didn't go in there because they wanted to make a charitable contribution to the people of Harlem. They went in there because there is business to be done, there is money to be made. That's a good thing. We have people who want to buy. Bring the businesses to us. We have the workforce. We have the markets.

        Our message is that now is the time to do this. We have the strongest economy in history. We have gone from a deficit to a surplus. If we're not smart enough to invest now in the liabilities and turn them into assets, when are we ever going to do it?

        All the excuses are gone. How many years have we waited to actually do this? There was always an excuse. The federal government can't do it because, because there's a deficit, because the taxes are too high. All the excuses are gone. Seize this moment.

        The business people will say that when the corporation is making a dividend that's when you invest in the liabilities to turn them into assets. The great corporation called the United States of America has a dividend -- that's what we call the surplus. Why don't you now take the opportunity to invest in the communities left behind and we'll all go up? Isn't that the smart business thing to do? And isn't it the right thing to do for the people who have been left behind in this nation?

        And then our message is if you think this is success, if you think this is as bright as that light of economic sunshine can get, if you think the stock market is high now, boy, you ain't seen nothing yet because we aren't even playing our strength yet.

        Imagine how strong we can be when we give opportunity to every American, when we let every American do the best for themselves and their families. Then how strong will this nation be? When we have every child who's now imprisoned in public housing, every child getting the best education they can to do the most with their God-given talents, every woman actualized and equalized, every young man not on a corner, not in a jail cell, but thinking and working, then how strong will we be as a nation?

        We don't want your charity. We want your opportunity to help us, to help our communities, and to make this nation stronger. It's up to you. Learn those programs, learn that menu, access the efforts, and let's do for this nation what we know we can do for this nation. Thank you for having me.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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