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“Go To West” Philadelphia, Young Entrepreneurs & Inventors

‘Promise Zone


    With high-spirited and high-minded hyperbole, and a touch of Horace Greeley, a gathering of community and political leaders from West Philadelphia welcomed Sen. Bob Casey, Friday, as he unveiled a proposal that would bolster -through tax incentives and accelerated depreciation- a ‘Promise Zone’ designation that was given in January to this segment of West Philadelphia, one of only five initially chosen by the Obama Administration.

  Standing outside Reed’s Coffee & Tea House at 38th and Lancaster, Farah Jimenez, the Pres. and CEO of People’s Emergency Center (PEC), introduced Sen. Casey noting that the selection of West Philadelphia as a ‘Promised Zone,” had sparked a “flurry of recognition and phone calls.”

   “The world’s eyes are on West Philadelphia,” said Ms. Jimenez. “What is this community going to be doing and how? How will we take this opportunity and use it to finally help others see what we know about our neighborhood?”

   Bordered by the Schuylkill River on one side and the Market-Frankford Line on the other, the West Philadelphia Promise Zone has economically waxed and waned over a period stretching back four decades.

 Yet it also boasts an array of remarkable assets: that include nearby Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania, Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, a notable housing mix of well-preserved row homes and others of a  Victorian-style, as well as a trolley Line that runs through the heart of its commercial corridor.

  An area that was at one time home to  Breyers Ice Cream, at 43rd and Woodland Ave., of Chilton Publishing at 56th and Chestnut St., and remains the home of  Amoroso Bakery – founded in 1904- is also the headquarters of a number of fledgling high-tech industries that have been spawned by graduates of Drexel and Penn.

  Besides recognizing community leaders for “working together,” Ms. Jimenez  praised Sen. Casey’s plan for “incentivizing private markets.”

   After acknowledging that his legislation would essentially  “codify” the scaffolding established by President Obama’s “Promise” initiative,  Sen. Casey elaborated on his vision of the “Promise Zone,” as part of an overall effort at “reducing crime” and creating educational and employment opportunities.

  “But you’re going to make this work”,  asserted Sen.Casey. “And that isn’t because the federal government dreams up great ideas and just hands the ball off.”

   “A lot of the dynamism, the energy, the optimism and the focus on the future is right here,” added Sen. Casey. “You’ve already demonstrated over many years, the people of West Philadelphia don’t wait for the future; they invent and they make the future.”

   The Casey legislation will establish a ten-year period of eligibility for participation and laid out requirements to qualify. For qualified properties participating within the zone, they would be eligible for additional first-year depreciation of 100% of the adjusted basis of the property.

  In addition, the legislation creates an employment credit to be provided to businesses that employ Promise Zone residents; a credit which would be applied to the first $15,000 of qualifying zone employee wages.    

    Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell applauded the Casey proposal as likely to help “this community reach its full capacity.”

  An exuberant State Sen. Vincent Hughes referred to the “wonderful” working relationship that exists between Sen. Casey, Councilwoman Blackwell, Drexel President John Fry and himself. He added,   “We always have the community as the central focus, and that’s a special thing.”

   When he announced the five initial Promise Zones, Pres. Obama said, “In a country as great as this one, a child’s zip code should never be what determines his or her opportunity.”

 “The government can’t fix this on its own, but it can be a much better partner in helping local leaders develop policies that improve education, protect the most vulnerable, and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.”

   The first five Promise Zones chosen were: San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.