Whither the Empowerment Zone?

When Atlanta became a federal “renewal community” its Empowerment Zone — save for the $50 million it still has left to spend — was supposed to disappear into the ether. To its critics, the disappearing act couldn’t come soon enough. The Clinton-era Empowerment Zone, which offered the city $250 million in grants, loans and tax breaks, hasn’t measured up to expectations. ?

But four months since the city was named a “renewal community” — a designation that makes local businesses eligible for billions in tax credits — it’s still not clear what will happen to the zone. ?

Michael Rich, an Emory political science professor, says that should soon change. During the last Empowerment Zone board meeting, members were told that the city plans to meet with HUD officials in May. So the city should have an answer as to what will happen to the zone by its May 13 board meeting. ?

The big question is: What will happen to the money left from the zone? It could simply be folded into the new designation or the zone could be allowed to survive until it gets a chance to distribute the $50 million left in its coffers.

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