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NEW CASTLE, PA. Candidate outlines plan to stimulate economic growth



Published: Sun, January 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful said cities like New Castle would be among the beneficiaries.

By MARY GRZEBIENIAK

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Ed Rendell said he turned Philadelphia around economically and can do the same for languishing small communities in Pennsylvania.

The Democratic candidate for governor stopped here Friday afternoon, talking to about 50 supporters in New Castle council chambers.

"Maybe you need a big-city mayor from Philadelphia to make sure you get your fair share," he said.

When Rendell took over the city in 1992, 15,000 jobs were being lost monthly. When he left in 1999, the job loss had turned into six consecutive years of gains, he said.

The revitalized city now has a thriving downtown, a convention center, 18 new hotels and enhanced historical tourist areas.

He said boroughs, townships and midsize cities like New Castle would be the main beneficiaries of his plan to channel $1.5 billion into economic development.

His first act as governor would be to sign an executive order creating an economic development panel of which he would be chairman, and he would regularly tour communities by bus to inspect progress.

Funding: The problem in older communities, he said, is that there is no money to fix the infrastructure to attract development. He said part of his program if he were elected governor would be a $100 million revolving-loan fund to clear sites for economic development and do environmental cleanup if necessary.

An additional $100 million revolving-loan fund would involve tax increment financing, in which the proceeds of a bond are used for development and then repaid with property taxes.

Rendell said he would also expand several development programs. The $15 million now allotted for housing and community development would increase to $50 million under his plan.

The Main Street Program that uses $2.5 million annually to revitalize decaying business districts would be increased to $10 million and used not just for fa & ccedil;ades but for construction.

Funds for development of affordable housing under the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency Homeownership Choice Program would be tripled to $15 million annually.

In addition, $50 million would be targeted to developing technology and telecommunications infrastructure to attract downtown businesses.

He would also designate $150 million of private activity bond financing for commercial, industrial and residential urban development to balance what he said has been a concentration of the financing in suburban industrial parks.

Block grants: He would also create a $100 million loan pool for which the state would pledge as security the future Community Development Block Grants targeted for the state's Small Communities Program. Under this program, communities could borrow up to five times the amount of their block grant.

At New Castle's $672,000, this could mean a $3.36 million loan for courthouses, city halls, jails or other public buildings.

Rendell will face Robert Casey Jr. in the Democratic primary. Attorney General Mike Fisher is unopposed for the Republican nomination.




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