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Community Renewal Implementation Conference:
Partnering for Community Renewal

Remarks prepared for delivery by
Secretary Mel Martinez

Washington, DC
Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Thank you, and good morning. Welcome to the Community Renewal Implementation Conference.

I want to acknowledge the leadership of Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman J.C. Watts in partnering with us to make the 2002 Community Renewal Implementation Conference possible. They both care deeply about America's distressed urban and rural area. In fact, their legislation created the Renewal Community concept. I appreciate their compassion.

I also want to acknowledge the leadership of HUD Assistant Secretary Roy Bernardi.

The President and I could not have picked a better man to head up HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development. Roy has brought us a wealth of expertise from his years of service as mayor of Syracuse, and the city's loss when he left there to join HUD was the nation's gain.

Finally - but most importantly - welcome to the local leaders representing our first round of Renewal Communities and third round of Empowerment Zones. And congratulations. I am very pleased that you have chosen to take part in this unique effort to promote economic development, stimulate job growth, and create affordable housing opportunities.

You are here because even though your communities face tremendous obstacles, you have a strong commitment to achieving economic growth and prosperity. We are here to help you succeed.

As a sign of just how deeply this commitment runs, when we announced the 40 renewal communities and eight empowerment zones in January, we created more areas of community renewal - with that one act - than the federal government created during the previous eight years put together.

The Administration has high expectations for our Community Renewal Initiative. We are excited about the opportunities ahead, and what they will mean for the people who live, work, shop, and learn in your communities. If the level of participation in this conference is any indication, you are just as enthusiastic. Nearly every new Renewal Community and Empowerment Zone is represented here. That is a record level of attendance.

It suggests to me that our partners on the state and local level are hungry for this sort of encouragement and support from the federal government.

As representatives of your communities, you are the ambassadors of the Community Renewal Initiative. When you leave here tomorrow, it will be your job to market the program back home and convince businesses looking to expand or move, to do it in your community. We have given you the most important tool - $22 billion in available tax relief that you can put to work creating jobs, growing businesses, cleaning brownfields, and building houses. Now we want to help you use it effectively to achieve the fullest possible level of community development.

The effectiveness of the Community Renewal Initiative depends on your ability to communicate its potential to your communities. Past experience tells us that in areas where tax incentives are available, they are not widely used - and most often because eligible businesses do not know that such incentives exist. It is difficult to make a program effective when the business community, the chambers of commerce, and even locally elected officials do not know about it.

This is why we invited you to Washington - to share ideas on how you can effectively communicate the value of the Community Renewal Initiative in your communities. So we look to you to be the program's salespeople, cheerleaders, spokesmen and spokeswomen.

If you do not leave this conference excited to begin aggressively marketing these new tax incentives to your communities, we have not done our job.

The Community Renewal Initiative brings communities together through public and private partnerships to attract the investment necessary for sustainable economic and community development. The Initiative recognizes that local communities can best identify and develop solutions to the problems they face.

The way we have structured this program is very different from the way government did things in the past.

The Initiative takes a revolutionary approach to creating jobs, business opportunities, and affordable housing by helping private industry flourish not through grants, but through tax relief. The President has made it very clear that tax relief is a key component of his economic growth agenda. Tax incentives are investments in communities that will attract private capital in a way that grants do not and offer businesses a more dependable way to benefit their bottom line than the old method of awarding grants.

The tax relief comes in many different forms.

Through wage credits, companies can benefit by hiring workers who live in the Empowerment Zone or Renewal Community area. Reducing or even eliminating capital gains is another example of how a business can significantly reduce its tax liability by locating in these areas. Accelerated depreciation and low-cost bond financing can help businesses underwrite the cost of plants and equipment.

Another important point about the tax incentives is the fact that they are retroactive for the Round One and Round Two Empowerment Zones.

These tax incentives could not have come at a better time. This critical partnership between the public and private sectors will help businesses grow in some of our country's most distressed, underused, high-poverty, and high-unemployment areas. These are communities such as south central Los Angeles, Harlem, and the southwestern border areas known as colonias - communities where two million people make their homes.

The growth in business will give distressed neighborhoods an economic boost to help drive revitalization, provide jobs, and ultimately build a foundation for stronger communities.

The Community Renewal Initiative offers residents and businesses the opportunities and resources to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. Vacant lots or abandoned buildings will become new business complexes and affordable housing. Residents will find new employment opportunities. Support services including childcare, education, and healthcare will be strengthened.

In addition, many communities possess undervalued assets such as vintage housing, convenience to mass transit, well-established churches, and universities. If packaged and utilized properly, these assets can create enormous value for residents and extraordinary opportunities for investors.

The Administration is working to create an environment that gives distressed urban and rural communities reason to be hopeful for the future. We believe that when private industry flourishes in these communities, it has direct and positive impact. The infusion of money created by the tax incentives will be spent within the community - in local stores, on local services, enriching local lives.

Earlier this month, I visited Detroit. Detroit was one of the first six cities chosen as an Empowerment Zone, and was awarded a Renewal Community designation this year. The partnerships the city has developed as a result have sparked a remarkable transformation, both in Detroit itself, and in the attitudes of its residents.

Some of the projects that have taken root include a new effort to help low-income and physically challenged citizens find transportation to and from their jobs, learning centers focused on helping seniors use computers for their everyday needs, and health centers located within Detroit schools.

The people of Detroit have every reason to feel hopeful about their city. So will the citizens of your communities, once they see the Community Renewal Initiative at work.

Since the concept of the Empowerment Zone was first announced in 1994, HUD has played a central role in the program's planning, development, and implementation. By far, our most important job as the lead agency is to share information about successful revitalization strategies with our community partners. We do that through conferences such as this, satellite broadcasts, monthly teleconferences, broadcast faxes, and regular telephone conference calls. And in the months and years ahead, we will work closely with you to identify and provide solutions to any problems you encounter as you implement your strategic plans.

Another benefit of having you come together like this is to give you a chance to share ideas among yourselves, and hear success stories from communities that have already begun the process of educating local businesses about the tax relief. Our local partners have some innovative projects underway that are raising awareness and starting a rumble of excitement, with the hope of attracting new businesses to their communities.

I urge you to be equally creative in marketing your community.

As its name suggests, the Community Renewal Initiative is community driven. You get to decide what happens in your neighborhoods. This approach makes the most sense - no one is in a better position to make decisions that benefit folks on the local level than the community leaders themselves.

So we are relying on you to find ways to translate the enthusiasm that you and I share for the work ahead, into a wave of excitement that inspires entire communities. It is going to take work - in many cases, you will have to battle the perception that tax incentives are complicated and uninteresting, and far from the quick "shot in the arm" a potential partner might be looking for. But I am confident that you can go back to your communities and make the case that incentives benefit everyone.

Being designated as a Renewal Community or an Empowerment Zone is only the first step, because the designation itself is just a tool. It is how you use that tool to breathe new life into your communities that will determine how successful you are. HUD is here to help you in any way that we can. This conference is an important resource. I challenge you to take the information you gather here this week, share it with your partners back home, and through your participation in the Community Renewal Initiative, help bring hope to areas where today there is none - one family, one neighborhood, and one community at a time.

Content Archived: March 16, 2010

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