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Public Statements

Reauthorize New Markets Tax Credit Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. NEAL. Madam Speaker, I want to talk about a program that is set to expire at the end of the year if Congress does not act, and it's the New Markets Tax Credit program. I have fought for this program since its enactment in 2000 because it's a cost-effective way to create jobs and drive investment in communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment. I've seen the amazing results of this initiative first hand back home in Massachusetts, and today I want to highlight one of those Massachusetts projects, the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Let me tell you a little about the New Markets Tax Credit. The program was designed to stimulate investment and economic growth in low-income communities that are traditionally overlooked by conventional capital markets. The New Markets Tax Credit program attracts capital to low-income communities by providing private investors with a 39 percent Federal tax credit for investments made in businesses or economic development projects located in certain areas where the individual poverty rate is at least 20 percent or where median family income is low.

According to the Government Accountability Office, 88 percent of the New Markets Tax Credit investors said they would not have made the investment in a low-income community without New Markets Tax Credits.

Every project or business financed by New Markets Tax Credits is located in a low-income community and/or benefits low-income individuals. The vast majority, over 90 percent of investment dollars generated through New Markets, has gone to communities with levels of economic distress that far exceed the minimum requirements of the law; and 60 percent has gone to communities with very high unemployment rates that are at least 1.5 times the national average.

Through 2009, New Markets cost the Federal Government, in terms of lost revenue, less than $4 billion. That $4 billion should be treated as a government investment because it has resulted in $50 billion in capital projects in those low-income communities and created or retained an estimated 500,000 jobs. According to the Treasury Department, every $1 of foregone tax revenue under New Markets leverages $12 of private investment in distressed communities. That's results, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, New Markets is a temporary program and unless Congress acts this month, it will expire on December 31. I am, and have been, the lead Democratic sponsor of legislation to extend this program for 5 years; and I have been leading the charge for years to make this a permanent initiative. I once again call on our colleagues to extend New Markets.

Let's talk about the success of New Markets in Massachusetts. Over 170 businesses in Massachusetts have received New Markets financing: Hot Mama's Foods in Springfield; the River Valley Market in Northampton; the Holyoke Health Center; and now the High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke as well.

But I want to focus today on the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Pittsfield is a city in western Massachusetts with a population of about 42,000 people. It's the largest community in that region of the State. It has struggled with unemployment and urban blight. The Colonial Theater is a rare architectural gem and one of the greatest acoustical houses in the world, located in the heart of Pittsfield. It was built at the turn of the century, and it was closed for more than 50 years. Periodic attempts to redevelop the theater failed for lack of money and sustained public support.

However, thanks to New Markets Tax Credit, financing of $16.7 million of a total project cost of $21 million, this 70,000 square foot theater and adjacent building were magnificently restored. With 823 seats, the theater reopened in 2006 and now features an impressive lineup of plays and musical shows. James Taylor is currently performing at the Colonial Theater as part of the cast of ``A Christmas Carol.'' Since its renovation, the theater has hosted Arlo Guthrie, the Four Tops, and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead will perform this spring. Recent musicals and plays at the Colonial Theater include ``The Who's Tommy,'' ``The Producers,'' ``The Wizard of Oz,'' and ``Rent.''

After the first 2 years of operation, the independent research firm Center for Creative Community Development estimated that the Colonial Theater sustains a direct economic impact of $4 million annually and 100 full-time jobs in the Berkshire area.

The Colonial Theater is a symbol of the re-emergence of Pittsfield as an economic and cultural center of the Berkshires. Anchoring the city's comprehensive strategy for downtown revitalization, the restored and vibrant Colonial Theater--along with six-screen Beacon Cinema Complex, also financed with New Markets Tax Credits--has created jobs, attracted new businesses, spurred residential development, and added vitality to this city. Widespread street-level vacancies in downtown Pittsfield has been virtually eliminated and 45 new businesses and restaurants have opened. The restoration has helped attract an estimated 400,000 new visitors to the downtown Pittsfield area each year.

Let's rejuvenate the New Markets Tax Credit program.

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