Hill Staff Learn about LRA Challenges, Potential Legislative Solutions

Two new pieces of legislation designed to aid the revitalization of closed military bases would help BRAC communities cope with a long-term decline in federal support for base redevelopment.

At a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday, hosted by the House Defense Communities Caucus, representatives from the offices of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) discussed changes to two existing tools for fostering redevelopment — the New Markets Tax Credit and the Small Business Administration’s HUBZone program — to benefit closure communities.

The results of ADC’s most recent State of Base Redevelopment Report demonstrate that base redevelopment projects are shovel-ready and create jobs almost as soon as property is handed over to local communities, according to ADC CEO Tim Ford.

“If we don’t transfer the property, we can’t get to economic redevelopment,” Ford said. “Every federal agency used to have a program focused on base redevelopment. That has gone away. How do you take existing programs, tweak them and make them suitable for redevelopment?”

The New Markets Tax Credit targets communities with high unemployment or high poverty rates and offers tax credits to encourage private investment. New legislation, introduced this month by Thompson and Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), would provide additional funding for the program as a set-aside specifically for distressed communities that have been impacted by base closure or realignment.

Bases closed in previous BRAC rounds are already designated HUBZones, a designation that helps distressed communities attract small businesses by giving them an advantage in federal procurement. The HUBZone Expansion Act would drop the requirement that 35 percent of employees on former bases live in a HUBZone themselves, allowing small businesses greater access to former military bases. The legislation was introduced in the House by Pingree and Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine).

Similar legislation has been introduced by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

ADC has endorsed both bills, which Steve Levesque, chair of the association’s LRA Directors Council and executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, praised at the briefing for congressional staff.

Rochelle Dornatt, chief of staff to Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) — who chairs the Defense Communities Caucus with Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) — said it is critical that new tools be identified to help communities since federal resources have dwindled.

“The help that Fort Ord had 21 years ago is not the same help for bases that closed in the 2005 round,” Dornatt said. “The thing about base redevelopment is that you have to be persistent,” she said. “You cannot give up, no matter how many years the task is. It will come around. ”

ADC encourages readers to contact their U.S. representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 3439 (New Markets Tax Credit Military Installation Act of 2013), which ADC has endorsed, and H.R. 489 (HUBZone Expansion Act of 2013), which it also endorsed. U.S. senators can be encouraged to join ADC in supporting S. 206 (HUBZone Expansion Act of 2013).

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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