Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s nonvoting representative in Congress, has reintroduced a bill that would add the District of Columbia to the national empowerment zone program to provide federal tax incentives for businesses to locate and invest in low-income areas in the city.

The venerable Democrat said the bill would effectively restore many of the federal tax incentives for investment in low-income D.C. neighborhoods that were created in a 1997 bill, but that Congress let expire in 2011.

Norton’s previous tax incentives bill produced “significant investment in the District,” she said.

The latest bill particularly focuses on Wards 5, 7 and 8, communities identified as having the greatest need.

Since Congress continues to extend the national empowerment zone program, D.C. neighborhoods that need the incentives should be able to participate in it, Norton argued.

“Unfortunately, the D.C. tax incentives were allowed to expire before the poorest D.C. neighborhoods were ready to make use of them, especially in Wards 5, 7 and 8,” Norton said in a recent statement. “Withdrawing the D.C. tax incentives, particularly after they had proven to be effective, has left the nation’s capital with essentially half of a revival, and was tragically timed just as the lower-income parts of the District, which need the incentives most, are ready for redevelopment.”

Norton added that the wisdom of the bipartisan, modest, targeted business tax incentives for D.C. has been amply and visibly demonstrated in the economic resurgence of parts of the nation’s capital where they were utilized.

“Among the most visible examples are the formerly rundown area around Capital One Arena, which is now surrounded by offices, restaurants and vibrant nightlife, and the Penn Quarter neighborhood, which had limited residential, commercial and retail spaces, and is now a popular mixed-use neighborhood,” she said. “The effectiveness of these incentives for the District has been demonstrated and their costs have been [minimal] compared to the measurable benefits they have generated in the District.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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