Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Mid-South Regional Greenprint Planning Kickoff

Memphis, Tenessee
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Mayor -- for that introduction and for your leadership on behalf of Memphis families and businesses. I also want to thank Dexter Muller and the Chamber for their partnership.

Thank you, Congressman Cohen, for that introduction and for your leadership.

I'd also like to thank the tremendous partners who are here with us today -- Mayors Wharton and Luttrell, as well as the Hyde Foundation for their support.

Today, I'm proud to join them as they kick off work to drive growth and opportunity in Shelby County and the Memphis region using HUD's $2.6 million sustainability grant.

I know how critical resources like these are to help Memphis respond to the challenges it faces -- and take advantage of the opportunities it brings.

Indeed, earlier this morning I visited the Aerotropolis, where I discussed the new partnership the Obama Administration is forging with localities and the private sector to knock down barriers to growth and leverage unique assets like the Aerotropolis to create an economy built to last.

And at 5 times the size of New York's Central Park, Shelby Farms represents another of this region's remarkable assets.

But as I also discussed--and as the leaders of Memphis and Shelby County realize--this region needs more than economic assets to succeed -- it needs a plan to take advantage of them, so that every family has a chance to see growth and opportunity come to their neighborhoods.

Indeed, just 15 minutes away from where we stand is Binghamton, a distressed neighborhood that is all too familiar with how well-meaning investments can literally tear a community in half.

But thanks to the leadership of folks like Mayor Luttrell, Shelby County's families are also starting to see how a smart government approach can use places like Shelby Farms to help revitalize neighborhoods like Binghamton.

It was just two years ago when you opened a new "greenway" connecting this beautiful urban park to Binghamton -- replacing an abandoned railway line with a 6-mile paved trail families can use to bike, jog, or walk.

Despite fears that Binghamton's troubles would spill over into the park itself, something very different has transpired. Instead, the Shelby Farms Greenline has become one of the community's greatest assets -- reducing transportation costs for families, and spurring growth among businesses attracted to the sudden increase in potential customers.

Indeed, as the Memphis Commercial Appeal noted about the rise of businesses along the Greenline, "where there are people, there are people looking for goods and services."

That's why the Obama Administration believes that Shelby County has created a model for smart planning and community development -- and as our $2.6 million grant demonstrates, we think it's a model you can build on.

With this grant, eight major partners including the Shelby County government, the Hyde Foundation, and the Memphis branch of the Urban Land Institute are working to build an entire network of greenways in and around Shelby Farms based on the Greenline model.

This network will increase the access of poor families to safe parks and good schools, create more walkable neighborhoods to improve health, and work to reduce poverty in some of Memphis' most troubled communities.

Not only that, but by including partners from DeSoto and Crittenden Counties, local partners won't just connect neighborhoods to one another -- you'll start to bring together the planning efforts of three different states.

Indeed, for too long, communities in southwestern Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, and northern Mississippi have faced similar challenges -- but have been unable to plan effectively to solve them together.

To take just one example that everyone in this audience certainly knows about, sprawl is pushing families further out from Memphis and into places like DeSoto County, Mississippi -- which has already doubled in population over the last 20 years and will double again by 2040.

That's why it's long past time that communities sharing the same problems should start sharing solutions.

And thanks to this grant, communities in the Memphis region will finally be able to take the first step to doing that, as they work to coordinate the development work of three states into a single regional vision.

A vision where this park isn't the exception -- but the standard to which this region's neighborhoods aspire.

That's the kind of smart government approach the Obama Administration is so proud to support -- and it's why we're fighting to restore $100 million for our Sustainable Communities grants in our FY 2013 budget after Congress refused to fund them last year.

That's what these grants are all about -- offering a new kind of federal partnership that gives communities the opportunity to spur growth, create jobs, and unlock the extraordinary potential we know they have.

Helping Shelby County realize its potential is why I'm so proud to be here today. Thank you -- and I'd love to take your questions.


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