Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane denied status as empowerment zone

Only 15 cities nationwide win grants, tax breaks in anti-poverty program

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The federal government has denied the city of Spokanes application for designation as an empowerment zone.

Started in 1993, the empowerment zone program offers qualifying communities $100 million in federal grants over 10 years, and tax breaks to companies there.

With only 15 cities awarded empowerment zone status nationwide in the recent round of applications, its like attaining sainthood, says Mike Adolfae, Spokanes community development director.

The recent designations, announced last month, went to larger cities, mostly in the eastern U.S., Adolfae says. Another 15 cities around the country, including Tacoma, were ranked high enough to qualify for a $3 million grant in the year 2000 that is part of President Clintons budget proposal to Congress.

Adolfae says, however, that Spokane didnt do well in the ranking, and didnt finish in the top 30 of the nearly 120 applicants. Nonetheless, he insists, our need was there.

Whether the money Clinton proposed for the second tier of cities will be made available depends on congressional approval.

Spokanes application was prepared by city staff members, with help from consultant Leonard Hendrickx, of Spokanes Hendrickx & Associates, and involvement by the citys community development board, neighborhood councils, and other local organizations, Adolfae says. He says the city spent about two months preparing the application, which was submitted in early October.

The application outlined plans that already are in progress, such as the Terabyte Triangle, a downtown zone to be wired for high-speed fiber-optic networks; The Greater Hillyard Business Associations plan to revitalize the Market Street commercial district; and the West Central Economic Development Task Forces job-skills training program.

Adolfae says he plans to create what he calls a life-after-empowerment-zone-designation-denial document to revisit the proposals and look at other tools to bring about the poverty-fighting, development goals listed in the application. He hopes such continued efforts might attract the interest of empowerment zone program officials.

Some redraft of the original application might be sent to administrators of the federal program in anticipation of future fund availability, Adolfae says. Well stay in touch, he says.

He says small federal grants of $50,000 to $100,000, might be available to help pay for community development planning in impoverished cities. Such funds could become a catalyst for other opportunities, he says.

Spokane also applied for empowerment zone status the last time it was offered in 1994 and was denied, Adolfae says. The empowerment zone program is an anti-poverty program administered by the Office of Community Planning & Development at the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

  • Anita Burke

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