December 14, 2016
C-Suite Wednesday — Economic Development is the Catalyst for Trump’s Urban Renewal
By Bob Coleman
Editor, C-Suite Wednesday
Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia addressed the Rural Lenders’ Roundtable last week in Washington D.C. and praised President-Elect Trump’s choice of Linda McMahon to run the SBA.
“Linda’s going to be a good one. She’ll get confirmed. We’ll have disciplined business people in Washington for a change.”
After the speech, I asked Senator Isakson how will Trump rebuild the inner cities. He spoke extensively about the role government incentives can and will play in economic development. Isakson is a strong supporter of SBA lending programs and was a cosponsor of the SBA 504 refi bill known as the CREED Act.
Senator, Trump has promised to rebuild our inner cities, to create jobs for the youth in the cities. How will he accomplish that?
You can’t do it the old way. You can’t do it the Great Society way. We have spent billions, trillions of dollars under the Great Society trying to bring about prosperity and hope in the inner city. There’s not an example in the country where that’s actually happening. It created a lot of dependency in the country. I tell a lot of people the secret to America is nobody dies on the steps of a hospital where you get help. Nobody dies because they go hungry because of the Salvation Army.
The problem in America is we made the safety net so good it’s too easy for some people to stay on the safety net and never try and get off. There’s a line that you want to draw that takes care of people in their time of need and it’s a safety net. There’s a platform that leads them into private enterprise and into employment and into activity, not permanent determined dependence. Right now we have a permanently dependent number of people in this country that are in the inner city and are poor. I don’t say that as a statement or a criticism, I say that as a criticism of us, not them, because we’re the ones that created it.
There are all kinds of numbers out there in terms of how much you can get with a family of four, get in terms of benefits, but the most accepted number is $45,000 a year in terms of food stamps, rent subsidies and things of that nature. A lot of people don’t make $45,000 a year that are working for a living, so you got to make sure that your safety net is balanced with your need, so you can have people wanting to get off of the safety net by staying in the safety net.
With that said in terms of how you would do it, there are some things – there’s some good examples of how you do it.
What the mayor did in East Lake Meadows is a prime example of what – and it is being done in other cities around the country that we ought to be doing. He bought the East Lake Golf Club that had trees growing in the fairways because it was so abandoned. It was known as little Vietnam. He restored the golf club and sold memberships for $250,000 and put $200,000 of that in a foundation to rebuild East Lake Meadows. They gave grants to small companies to come in and start businesses.
He took the burned out Drew Elementary School in East Lake Meadows, took it over as a charter school, it’s now the number one elementary school in Georgia. Not because the students changed, they didn’t change. What changed is that the students now think they can grow up to be something someday. The ones that went there in the past didn’t think that at all. So there’s lots of things we can do to be a partner with developers to develop the things that people need, not the things we want necessarily to sell to someone.
Redevelopment of the inner city is possible to do and Atlanta is a good example. Georgia State is basically the old downtown Atlanta. If you go to downtown Atlanta you look in any direction for three blocks it’s Georgia State University with a few exceptions. That’s why the government in the State of Georgia took the largest state university and he expanded it in the inner city. He took buildings that were abandoned and made them classier buildings. That’s how you change things, so I think there’ll be a lot of specific redevelopment-oriented and specific programs, do that in the inner city.
The last thing, I’m talking too long. This is a great question.
I’m the chairman of the Workforce Safety and Development Committee, a sub-committee and the Health Education and Labor and Pensions Committee which deals with labor law and things like the Perkins Acts and things like that. We reauthorized in the last year and passed what we call WIOA, the Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is money that we give to the states for redevelopment and training of people who have lost their jobs and they’d be retrained for jobs in the 21st century, but we did Republican things. We took the restrictions that made that money all go the same way the federal government thought it ought to go. We gave the government, the governor’s control of 90 percent of the money. We funded training before they needed the training.
So Boeing is trying to go to South Carolina and we want them to train aircraft engineers, not donut makers. In Georgia, the motion picture industry, we’re now number two in the United States. We’re going to be number one before too long. Ahead of Hollywood. One of the ways you’re doing that is by developing the people that make the scenes, do the post production and all that type of stuff. James Bond’s next film is going to be filmed in Georgia. Pinewood Studios moved from London, England to Fayette County, Georgia. A lot of people don’t know that. A million square foot building where Bond’s going to be operating in the next years.
There are lots of things you can do to incentivize economic growth and development.
Economic development will be a catalyst for government if you really want to change.