Expectations of Empowerment: Can Clinton's Empowerment Zones Provide the Fuel Needed to Jump-Start Urban Economies?
Simms, Margaret C., Black Enterprise
The Clinton Administration has inspired new interest in community development, particularly in urban areas. Enterprise zones, dismissed as "token" legislation under Republican administrations, have been recast as "empowerment" zones. As part of the Clinton Economic Plan passed this summer, these zones will be funded by the federal, as opposed to state and local, government. Officials and community leaders hope this new measure will create a new economic start for our big cities.
African-Americans have a special interest because 59% of the U.S. black population lives in 30 metropolitan areas. Stimulating employment and business opportunities could make a crucial impact on the economic condition of the black community. However, there is a danger in looking to the federal government for salvation. Clinton's plan is likely to provide only seed money for the massive task of revitalizing urban economies. Effective use of federal funds will still rest with decision-makers at the state and local levels.
Successful plans must address the basic needs of residents and businesses in these zones. A business cannot succeed without three ingredients: a skilled workforce, viable markets and adequate capital. No new markets, no improved workforce.
Empowerment zones attempt to rectify this by combining the enterprise zones' positive aspects with initiatives that address urban needs. This idea embodies a reality already assimilated by some governmental entities. For example, South Carolina has discovered that tax waivers and other "barrier" reduction tactics affected where businesses locate. However, such businesses as warehousing that were eligible for these types of incentives generated few jobs. To remedy this, the state broadened incentives by promising to train workers of businesses that bring jobs to South Carolina.
The budget bill passed by the Congress in August included $3. …