Coalition gathers NMTC stakeholders for a policy conference, releases new state statistics
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 18, 2018) — The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Coalition held its Annual Conference on December 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C. The event featured members of Congress as keynote speakers, and panels on timely community development matters. Attendees were also provided with insights from the Treasury Department and the release of updated state statistics on NMTC efficacy.
NMTC Coalition President Kermit Billups opened the conference, welcoming speakers and guests. The experienced NMTC practitioner and Greenline Ventures EVP highlighted recent successes and looked to the future of the NMTC Coalition. Keynote speakers at the conference included U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.). Both indicated their desire to work with House colleagues to see the NMTC not only extended, but made permanent and expanded.
“We have seen firsthand the impact the New Markets Tax Credit program has had here in New York and want to ensure it has a fair shot at continuing to boost jobs in our community,” Congressman Reed said. “While the economy continues to grow, small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy – still struggle to secure the capital needed to spur revitalization.”
“The New Markets Tax Credit helps create a better environment for businesses and transformative projects to thrive – boosting wages, services and economic development where it’s needed most,” Reed concluded.
A legislative outlook panel was led by moderator Bob Rapoza, NMTC Coalition spokesman, and included key congressional staff. Many attendees headed to congressional visits that afternoon, followed by a reception in the Kennedy Caucus Room where they were addressed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Senate NMTC Extension Act cosponsors and Senate Finance Committee members, who discussed NMTC impact and the future of tax policy.
Sen. Cardin said, “In Maryland, the New Markets Tax Credit has been deployed on a diverse range of infrastructure and community development efforts, from affordable housing, to health clinics, to community centers. Since 2003, the credit has resulted in billions of dollars in investment across the state and created over 34,000 jobs. It is time to make this incredibly valuable program permanent.”
Senator Rob Portman added, “Pro-growth federal policies are helping grow our economy and strengthen our communities. More than ever, we need to continue support for programs like the New Markets Tax Credit that spur investment in areas that truly need it and help create new industry, infrastructure, and jobs for cities and towns across the U.S. that have felt left behind. I’ve seen the results that these tax credits can have on our communities. Last year in Ohio, $280 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing generated a total of $462 million in public-private project investment for 29 projects in the state. Our local communities depend on these tax incentives for projects that transform our communities, create jobs, and make a real difference in peoples’ lives, and I’ll continue fighting to make them permanent.”
The final keynote of the conference came from Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund Director Annie Donovan. At the close of her remarks, Donovan announced her departure from the CDFI Fund. During her five years as director, Donovan oversaw tremendous growth in the agency’s funding and programming and the largest ever CDFI and NMTC program award rounds. Integrating more data into policy-making was a top priority for Donovan.
Panels during the conference also included NMTC board and leadership, economic development experts and Treasury Department professionals. Those discussions focused on Opportunity Zones, NMTC investor prospects, NMTC financing disaster relief, and the latest insights from the Treasury Department.
“Since its inception, the New Markets Tax Credit has financed more than 5,000 projects and created over one million jobs,” said Bob Rapoza. “The conference provides practitioners with opportunities to discuss ways to build upon its success, helping low-income rural and urban communities access the capital necessary to grow local economies, expand business opportunities, update worn infrastructure, and make needed services like healthcare, education and childcare available to individuals and families living in distressed areas.”
By Paul Anderson
Today, the White House released its annual Economic Report of the President. The report included a sidebar on "Distressed Communities and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that mentions the New Markets Tax Credit (see right) and then later goes on to describe the Invest in Opportunity Act (IOA).
While the IOA and New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) target many of the same census tracts, no question that the NMTC and the IOA serve different but complementary purposes. Opportunity Funds will make equity investments in businesses. Community Development Entities mostly use the NMTC to provide debt to businesses and community facilities. That's why we are so excited see these programs working side by side.
We appreciate the White House highlighting the NMTC's success, but I do feel the need to correct a couple of misconceptions about the NMTC, real estate, and entrepreneurship.
First of all, we should not be too quick to dismiss the value of construction and rehabilitation projects in creating jobs and opportunity. Construction jobs - while often temporary - typically provide good pay and benefits. The construction industry - perhaps more than any other industry - offers apprenticeship and on the job training, providing an avenue for advancement. Construction spurs secondary economic activity (down the supply chain) that is easy to identify and measure. While an increase in construction income and the resulting macroeconomic boost to the economy may be temporary, real estate investment creates or improves a tangible asset that will serve a community for decades to come.
White House Comment on Distressed Communities and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
"The Federal government has an active set of policies to encourage investment and job creation in distressed communities, including Empowerment Zones, Enterprise5 Communities, Renewal Communities, and New Market Tax Credits (NMTC). The NMTC—arguably, the most successful of these programs—is structured to induce “patient” capital, providing substantial investment incentives if assets are held over a full seven years. As a result, although the majority of NMTC recipients would not have otherwise invested in the benefiting community, real estate has been the investment of choice, both because real estate returns are naturally long-run and because these investments clearly complied with NMTC regulations (Bernstein and Hassett 2015). But real estate is likely not the most effective tool for job growth, and the program is reportedly difficult for entrepreneurs to navigate."
Purpose of NMTC-Financing (2003-2016)
|Purpose of Loan or Investment||Total (2003-2016)||Percentage (2003-2016)|
Secondly, it is a misconception that the NMTC almost exclusively finances construction. While a majority of NMTC projects (roughly 65%) involve some sort of construction or rehabilitation, most NMTC real estate projects also involve the provision of working capital, purchase of equipment, or other financing supporting for an operating business. When you look past the project level and trace NMTC transaction activity to the primary purpose of each financial note, the share of real estate vs non-real estate is about even (see table to the right).
Finally, while it is true that the NMTC does not often provide direct financing to entrepreneurs, the program has been used to capitalize small business loan pools supporting emerging businesses and startup. And increasingly, the NMTC is financing projects that support the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In 2016, according to NMTC Coalition survey data, about 6% of projects financed were business incubators, creative office space, and other physical infrastructure that helps accelerate the development of small businesses, support aspiring culinary entrepreneurs, or foster social enterprise. Below find a few of the many examples across the country.
Supporting the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
The Highlander Accelerator, Omaha, NE
The Highlander Accelerator in Omaha, Nebraska, rejuvenated the blighted former site of a failed 23-acre public housing complex demolished in 2009.
The Accelerator offers rents 50 percent below the market rate to facilitate a carefully selected mix of nonprofit and commercial tenants that maximize impact on the educational opportunities, health, and well-being of disadvantaged neighborhood residents. The facility includes over 17,500 SF for Whispering Roots (right), a nonprofit aquaponics organization that will produce fish and leafy greens in a high-tech “closed loop” system.
Studebaker Innovation Center/Renaissance District, South Bend, IN
Adaptive reuse of a former Studebaker automobile manufacturing facility (built between 1923 and 1946) into office, education, incubator, advanced manufacturing and training space. Created 634 full-time equivalent jobs and 131 construction jobs.
An Interview with Andrew Wiand, Executive Director of enFocus, at the Renaissance District
Rocky Mountain Innosphere, Fort Collins, CO
Supporting Culinary Entrepreneurs
The Findlay Kitchen, an Incubator in Cincinnati
Union Hall – A Dynamic Center of Gravity for Entrepreneurs in Cincinnati, OH
LA Prep Commercial Kitchen Incubator
R House: Baltimore's Emerging Chefs
BOOM! Health Project Includes Workforce Training Cafe
Enterprise Community Partners and Chase financed a mixed-use project in the Bronx that includes, among other things, a café called BOOM!Café, which will double as a community space and workforce training center on the ground floor. BOOM is working with Catalyst Kitchen, an incubator of food service social enterprises based in Seattle, to establish a training program and business model for the café.
After Katrina and Rita, the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) served an important role in rebuilding community facilities including hospitals and schools, helping businesses replace damaged furniture and equipment, and bringing life back to devastated areas. Disasters isolate low-income areas that already lag far behind affluent communities in the availability of basic services like healthcare as well as the physical infrastructure needed to grow businesses and create economic opportunity. The construction of facilities and infrastructure is important, but economic recovery is difficult - if not impossible - if residents have no where to live. Katrina and Rita collectively displaced 1.3 million people and caused severe or major damage to tens of thousands of owner-occupied homes in areas struggling with high poverty and unemployment before the storm.
The NMTC played an underappreciated role in financing new or renovated homes for displaced families after the storm. NMTC financing supported more than 1,000 single-family homes for displaced residents of disaster areas. One example is a groundbreaking, scalable project supported by Greenline Ventures, a community development organization that finances projects that provide returns for investors and create positive impact in communities.
A Model for Rebuilding Homes
Hurricanes - like thunderstorms - often create damage that looks scattered or convective on a map. One neighborhood be severely damaged while an adjacent neighborhood sits remarkably untouched. Displaced residents wait in shelters or stay with family and friends, but their luckier neighbors see their economic prospects suffer as well. A community cannot fully recover until its residents return to their homes, making it whole again.
"Housing really is the most immediate concern after a hurricane," said Kermit Billups of Greenline Ventures.
While programs like LIHTC are very effective in financing large-scale rental developments, federal affordable housing policy does leave some gaps, and Greenline Ventures saw an opportunity to use the NMTC's flexibility to meet scattered, single-family housing needs and put people back to work. Greenline provided $700,000 in NMTC financing to a small, local developer to support 13 new affordable single-family houses in Louisiana.
To expedite the project, Greenline coordinated with local housing agencies and helped first-time developers understand the scope and desired outcomes of the rebuilding effort while helping them navigate red tape. They engaged local, minority and woman-owned contractors for most of the work, and eighty-five percent of the workers hired for construction were local. To finance the project, Greenline provided a clustered site redevelopment loan product that was not available on the conventional market and only possible thanks to subsidy from the NMTC.
"We followed the General Patton model of development: GET IT DONE." said Billups. "Housing kits and materials were shipped directly to construction sites so that building could begin as quickly as possible."
The project served as a scalable model for GO-Zone Housing development through public-private partnerships. It also provided the developer with credentials to receive an award for $75 million in FEMA and New Orleans funds to build similar housing in the region. Ultimately, they financed 450 units in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lake Charles, creating an additional 540 construction jobs.