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Moulton to Mnuchin: Certify Sixth District Opportunity Zones Without Delay

April 25th, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin requesting he certify without delay the eligible communities in Massachusetts’ Sixth Congressional District that have been submitted for the Opportunity Zone Designation Program. These communities include Gloucester, Beverly, Peabody, Salem, Saugus, and Lynn. Moulton is an original cosponsor of the legislation that authorized the Opportunity Zone initiative.

A full text of the letter can be found below.

 

April 24, 2018

 

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20220

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

 

I write to request that you certify without delay the eligible communities in Massachusetts’ Sixth Congressional District that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has submitted for the Opportunity Zone Designation Program. I understand these communities include Gloucester, Beverly, Peabody, Salem, Saugus, and Lynn. As an original cosponsor of the legislation that authorized this initiative, I believe these communities will benefit from the increased investment in local infrastructure and economic growth that comes with public-private partnerships.

 

Founded in 1623, the City of Gloucester is the oldest seaport in the United States and is home to the largest groundfish and lobster port in Massachusetts. In addition to its rich maritime heritage, Gloucester is considered a regional economic hub and tourism destination. Once the center of the New England fishing industry, Gloucester has struggled to maintain a thriving, working waterfront. With the decline of the fishing industry, Gloucester has had to rebrand itself and search for new economic opportunities for its downtown. If awarded, the Opportunity Zone designation and incentive program would help the city attract additional and much-needed investment to the waterfront. Additionally, the City of Gloucester has stated that a zone designation would result in job growth and will assist in marketing downtown Gloucester to national and international companies looking to expand and relocate.

 

The City of Beverly is a seaside manufacturing hub and cultural district that provides small town charm with a city identity. Beverly’s strong partnerships between private companies, government and community help attract a wide range of economic development and cultural opportunities. While Beverly has a lot to offer, there are areas in Beverly’s downtown that are underdeveloped due to various construction and finance obstacles. The eligible opportunity tracts include much of the commercial and industrial areas in downtown Beverly, including the Bass River industrial sector and the Cummings Center business park. While the City of Beverly has made positive improvements to this area, the increasing cost of local construction and issues obtaining financing have made it difficult to attract equity investors. A Opportunity Zone designation and increased tax incentives for investors would help alleviate some of these current challenges. The designation would act as a catalyst to unlock more equity investment, especially in the Cummings Center business park, enhancing business and job opportunities for many North Shore residents.

 

Once referred to as “The Leather City,” Peabody has struggled to maintain its 20th century economic vitality into the beginning of the 21st. The majority of Peabody’s 91 leather companies have closed or relocated, leaving the city with several resistant to redevelopment and eroding the employment base on which the city was built. This post-industrial decline has especially impacted the city’s downtown district, leaving it chronically underdeveloped. However, while Peabody is facing many economic hurdles, the city is also poised for an economic resurgence: an Opportunity Zone designation would unlock potential investment opportunities for underutilized and vacant buildings downtown, reviving the city’s vibrant center. This designation would not only assist the downtown, but also crucially the segment of the nominated census tract running along the city’s border with Salem. Development and revitalization in this area would improve the city’s employment opportunities, housing stock, and strengthen the bonds between the Peabody and Salem economies, resulting in mutually beneficial economic development for the region.

 

Salem has historically been one of America’s most important seaports; however, beyond its historical significance, the city is still an economic and educational hub for the North Shore. While Salem is a local economic powerhouse, the city is still grappling with economic development obstacles within its eligible census tracts. These obstacles include increased cost of local construction due to difficult topography, and significant environmental issues due to prior industrial use, among others. Designation as an Opportunity Zone would help offset some of this cost of construction and cleanup, and also spur investment and job growth in the city’s industrial district–one of the region’s busiest retail corridors. Additionally, Salem lacks workforce housing near many of its major employment centers including, Salem State University and North Shore Medical Center. Increased investment from the Opportunity Zone program would help Salem to build affordable housing for current and prospective employees, continuing to drive the city and region’s economy forward by broadening its local tax and employment base.

 

Once the “shoe capital of the world,” the City of Lynn has weathered a decline similar to many post-industrial cities this century. However, Lynn is now well-poised for a meaningful renaissance— fueled by its strong, diverse residents and its unique proximity to the ocean and the City of Boston. A gateway city of 92,000 residents, Lynn has not recovered its 20th-century economic vitality: in the past hundred years, shoe manufacturing moved overseas, the advent of the suburban shopping mall decimated the downtown shopping corridor, and General Electric, the city’s largest employer, reduced its workforce from 30,000 to 3,000. Despite these challenges, Lynn’s unique strengths, including its proximity to Boston, accessibility of public transportation, 305 acres of undeveloped waterfront property, and a thriving downtown restaurant and entrepreneurial scene, are evident, and the city is on the rise.  Governor Charlie Baker, then-Senator Tom McGee, former Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and I have worked to convene a federal, state, and municipal team to strategize on Lynn’s revitalization: Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD). While the LEAD team has made significant progress in improving the quality of life in Lynn by leveraging Mass Development, creating partnerships with cultural organizations and executing a recent “Developers Tour,” there are still many waterfront, transportation, and downtown projects that have been slow to develop due to financial and environmental obstacles. The momentum toward revitalization created by this group’s efforts, enhanced by an Opportunity Zone designation, is what Lynn needs to activate the investment of residents and developers alike. If approved, an Opportunity Zone designation would act as a catalyst to help move these projects forward and unlock Lynn’s potential to provide employment, transportation and residential opportunities in the Greater Boston area.

 

The Town of Saugus was first settled in 1629 and is the home of Saugus Iron works, a National Historic Site and first integrated ironworks in North America, Saugus has a long and rich manufacturing history. During the Industrial Revolution, many new industries moved their manufacturing to Saugus, including shoes, woolen goods, and tobacco. Following the Civil War, the Cliftondale section of Saugus became a major producer of tobacco as many of the southern tobacco plantations had been destroyed. Its thriving tobacco industry earned the town the moniker, “The Winston-Salem of the North.” Like many smaller post-industrial cities and towns, Saugus has struggled to revitalize its once thriving economy. Saugus stated that, with a zone designation, they would develop a community partnership organization to focus on the town’s ongoing revitalization that would include business owners, residents, property owners, and public sector representatives.

 

I am excited to see that the Opportunity Zone Program has become a reality for communities in Massachusetts and throughout the country. I trust that the applications of Gloucester, Beverly, Peabody, Salem, Saugus and Lynn will receive the serious consideration that they deserve. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Senior Policy Advisor, Eric Kanter, at Eric.Kanter@mail.house.gov.

 

Sincerely,

 

SETH MOULTON
Member of Congress

 

 

To learn more about Congressman Seth Moulton visit https://moulton.house.gov or connect with him on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Medium.

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