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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 13, 1999
                     REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT

                     Old Executive Office Building

9:47 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I appreciate your warm welcome. Thank you for coming. Welcome to the White House. Priscilla Hill Ardoin, thank you for your kind introduction. I want to thank you, and in thanking you I also want to express gratitude to all of the business partners who have been so instrumental in making these winning plans possible here today. The teams that are here in this audience have done an extraordinary job.

This is a little bit like the play-offs or the Super Bowl -- these winning teams have made it all the way. And congratulations to all of you. And key members of your teams have been from the business community and I want to thank all of the businesses that have stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and have made a lot of these winning applications possible.

I want to thank my colleagues, Secretary Cuomo and Secretary Glickman -- Rhoda Glickman is here today -- and Assistant Secretary Cardell Cooper, Under Secretary of Agriculture Jill Long Thompson, and other members of the HUD and Agriculture teams. These guys have worked incredibly hard. They're close friends, they're close friends of one another, and you can see their teamwork in the way this whole program has worked so smoothly. And Agriculture and HUD as agencies have done a fantastic job.

I'm going to acknowledge the individual Senators and members of the House and mayors and other leaders at the conclusion of my remarks, when we invite each group up for the award ceremony, so forgive me for not mentioning all of you at the beginning.

Also, there are a lot of enterprise communities that are going to be happy with the awards that are announced. We will not be presenting each one of them individually, but I want to express my congratulations to all of the enterprise community winners. And I know Senator Susan Collins, from Maine, has worked hard on the enterprise community that will be winning from Maine.

I want to thank my colleagues, Mickey Ibarra and Lynn Cutler, here in the White House; and Julian Potter, who has been the principal staff person heading up our empowerment zone and enterprise community initiative; and all of the local officials who are present -- congratulations and welcome.

This really is an extraordinary time for our country, because the excitement that you feel and the communities that have won here today is matched in communities all across the United States of America. Even in those communities that competed for these coveted awards, but did not receive the awards today -- they've come together in order to apply for the award and they found out a lot about themselves in the process. We tried to design the application process in a way that would encourage communities to come together and develop a common vision of what the brightest future for that community might be.

I remember those early meetings six years ago, and I recall in one of those first meetings a little children's story that Disney came up with years ago -- you remember the story of Dumbo, the Elephant, with the big ears -- but he could only fly with his magic feather. And then in a moment of crisis, the feather was nowhere to be found and, of course, the feather was not ultimately necessary at all.

In a sense, the communities that have won these awards could have done most of what you have done without the award -- you could fly, so to speak, toward this brighter future even without this process. But the process, in many cases you've told us, has made it easier for you to get some of the sectors of the communities, some of your partners to come to the table and really pay close attention to what the whole community has at stake. And I think really the biggest success of this whole Empowerment Zone Enterprise Community program has been the way it has encouraged communities to come together. It's been a privilege for me to be a part of it and I am very excited at these awards today.

You know, I do want to say this -- both my colleagues had some kind words about the way the White House has steered this -- I want to make it very clear. A few days ago we passed an historic milestone in America. This is now the longest and strongest economic recovery in the entire history of the United States of America. (Applause.) And there's one man principally responsible for it, and that is President Bill Clinton. (Applause.) And we want to thank President Clinton for his leadership and policies that have made it possible. (Applause.)

And from the beginning the President and I have tried to design policies that not only would give our country a chance to have this strong, sustained economic growth, but would also make it possible for those communities that have been left out in the past, left behind during previous economic booms, to fully participate and to be a part of the prosperity. And the Empowerment Zone Enterprise Community program has been one of the central components of a whole set of policies that have been designed to make sure that people are not left behind.

The good news is that these policies are working. We're allowing everyone to participate. We can see our shining success in neighborhoods and communities and schools across America. We can see it in parents who are hopeful, who dream of a better future for their children and then for their grandchildren -- people who refuse to accept that the way things are is the way they will always be in the future. We see it in local residents, who are bridging the barriers that have divided neighborhoods and groups in the past instead of reaching out their hands across those barriers and joining in common dreams for a brighter future.

It's true that when President Clinton and I first took office there were many willing to throw in the towel on our distressed communities. There were a lot of reasons for that -- prejudice played a role; historic development patterns played a role -- there are many causes. But we knew that if America is going to be strong, our cities and distressed rural communities have to be strong, as well.

Today, in a world more connected than ever before, we really do need the talent and the skill of every single American if we're going to succeed as a nation. We really cannot afford to leave anybody behind.

Time and again we heard from mayors and community leaders who told us that one of the keys to a successful formula was to avoid what the federal government has sometimes done in the past, and that is to come into cities and tell the cities what to do. Instead, what we heard was, listen to us and work with us and give us what we need to do -- in the way that we know how to do it. And so we designed this whole program as a partnership catalyzing program, to help bring jobs back to distressed communities, to help bring private business partners in and get them involved and prideful and committed to the kind of progress that they want to help produce in the communities that they serve.

We wanted, also, to make sure that rural communities would no longer be abandoned. There are so many rural communities where you can go into the high school senior class and ask how many of them are going to stay there, and practically none plan to. We want to change that. And new development patterns make it possible to create hope right in those rural communities. We wanted to encourage entrepreneurs to come back into the community and build their futures there.

Well, we know that there are a lot of other pieces to the puzzle and we've worked on community policing and bringing the crime rate down, transportation policies that make it possible for people going off welfare to get to jobs and back and forth; child care; strong family policies; an effective battle against drugs -- all of the parts of the puzzle do fit together. But economic opportunity and moving communities in the right direction is really at the heart of it.

And I'm proud to tell you today that of the first round winners in our Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community competition, virtually all of them have shown tremendous progress; tens of thousands of jobs have been created. And now for the first time in more than a generation, our central cities and rural communities are sharing in America's success.

One reason is that this program does work in partnership with other efforts to bring money back to where it needs to be invested -- such as the Community Reinvestment Act, which has inspired the private sector to pledge more than $1 trillion in loans to distressed communities, more than 95 percent of which have been made since 1993. That is why President Clinton and I are going to make sure that the Community Reinvestment Act remains strong for the 21st century.

I have personally been to every single one of these empowerment zones, several of them repeatedly. I've been to quite a few of the enterprise communities, and I've seen what's happening with my own eyes. I recognize a lot of faces in this room from people who have been at our annual White House conferences on empowerment zones. And, indeed, in the last one the applicant communities were invited to come in and have an intensive dialogue with the first round winners, so, as Secretary Glickman said, we could learn from what happened before -- and Secretary Cuomo emphasized this.

And if you go to some of these zones you'll be astonished. If you go to Detroit, Mayor Archer will tell you about the $2 billion in new private investment that has been leveraged right into the heart of the Detroit zone because of the empowerment zone process.

Go to Keysville, Georgia, and they'll tell you quickly about their innovative computer network that links small towns to promote the entire region with stunning success. Go to Kansas City, and Mayor Cleaver will show you how the incentives have helped to renovate the historic jazz district. All across America communities are even reconnecting to their neighboring communities -- not just to bring jobs and opportunity back, but to find common solutions to shared problems, to build more liveable communities and to improve their quality of life.

So now we're about to spark even more growth in jobs, because today we are awarding 20 brand new empowerment zones, 15 urban zones and 5 rural zones all across our country. The second round builds on the first round by providing new opportunity in new and creative ways. At a time when many communities across America are reaching across borders to come up with regional solutions to problems, more than one-third of the urban zones are being awarded to cities that came together to form regional partnerships. And also for the first time, round two allowed Indian tribes with high poverty to qualify for and receive designation. And we're awarding one today.

And that's just the beginning. I'm pleased to announce that in the budget we will submit to Congress next month we are seeking an additional $1.6 billion in grants to help create jobs, leverage private investment, and bring businesses back to these 20 award winning communities today. We'll need your help. (Applause.)

And let me say, we need your help in building upon the strong bipartisan base of support in the Congress, by magnifying the message that this is a bipartisan approach. There was zero consideration given to whether these communities have been led by Democrats or Republicans or what areas they were in. This is about people, not politics. This is about the future of our country. And you can help us deliver that message loudly and clearly, and that the program works, in order to secure approval of that particular provision I just mentioned. Because if Congress approves full funding for our new empowerment zones, it will help create and retain about 90,000 jobs and stimulate more than $20 billion in new private and public investment. That's a down payment on extending the American Dream to millions of Americans.

I mentioned that we're going to have 20 rural enterprise communities. This, too, is an investment that pays off; 11 of the empowerment zones that we're naming today started out as enterprise communities four years ago. We estimate that they will create and retain 16,000 jobs and stimulate $500 million in public and private investment. And, incidentally, these estimates are not pie-in-the-sky figures, they're based on the real experience that we've already had with the winning communities. These are real numbers.

And there are no losers, because the communities that have gone through this process have felt that it has been a very, very successful one, because groups that have never talked to one another came together for the first time and real progress was made. And that's why I'm proud to announce, as Secretary Cuomo mentioned, that we're going to seek $45 million in special grants to be awarded to the 15 runner-up communities, and we're going to call them strategic planning communities that were finalists in the competition for urban empowerment zones.

The more we can invest in the dreams that are nurtured in these communities, the more we can give them the tools to reach those dreams and reach their goals, turn their dreams into reality. And the stronger our communities will be and the stronger our nation will be.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank all of you for being the dreammakers. And now it's my pleasure to present the 20 award winners here today. I'm going to ask each delegation to join me on stage as I read off their names. We're going to go with the urban awards first, and then the rural awards. And then I'll make some very brief concluding comments.

(The awards were presented.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now, ladies and gentlemen, just a brief closing comment. Again, I want to congratulate all of the award winners here today. The only way we're going to meet the challenges of our distressed urban and rural communities is if we work together, and that is exactly what we are doing.

Now, one final word. This award today is the beginning of a new era in these communities. I want you to know that our role as your partner is not over with the giving of this award and the resources that go along with it. We will continue to have our regular White House conferences, with the detailed break-out sessions on how to address and solve all the various problems that you've come across that you would like us to be teammates with you in solving. And we will continue to be available to you on a regular ongoing basis to facilitate communication with your peers and colleagues, and to identify other opportunities. As many of you know, along with this award designation comes not only the resources and the prestige, but also some extra help in various programs and the identification of opportunities.

So I want you to know that this is just the beginning and it's just the beginning for our efforts to be good partners with you, as well.

To one and all, once again, congratulations. (Applause.)

END 10:33 A.M. EST