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Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez Participates in HCD Listening Session

Here is an article from the Imperial Valley Press discussing Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez’s involvement in the HCD “listening session” held last week in El Centro:

Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, joined business owners, community members, and local officials from the Imperial and Coachella valleys to voice strong support for the protection and strengthening of the California Enterprise Zone program at a public forum in El Centro held by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Thursday’s forum was the second of three “listening sessions” held by the California Department of Housing and Community Development to hear from communities about the Enterprise Zone Program. The state department administers the Enterprise Zone Program and is considering regulatory changes to the program.

Though the department has not yet released the draft rules, it is using the sessions to gather local input.

About 55 people participated in the two-hour session, held Thursday morning in a full room at the San Diego Gas & Electric’s Renewable Energy Resource Center. Pérez’s remarks began with a focus on the economic empowerment role of the program.

“Our communities are working on the front lines to bring new resources and private investment to areas that have been extremely hard hit by the recession, not to mention that historically have been overlooked,” he said. “…The EZ Program is unique among government programs because it targets lower-income, struggling neighborhoods and combines a mix of tools to genuinely promote community and economic empowerment.

“In our region, based on locally defined goals and objectives, the EZ Program has helped encourage entrepreneurship and brought the dignity of work to our residents,” he added.

Pérez strongly encouraged HCD leaders not only to thoughtfully consider community input, but also cautioned them to conduct a thorough legal analysis before pursuing any changes to the program that may cause legal turmoil.

“Quite frankly, our communities cannot afford to wait while lawsuits move through the courts. We need economic development now,” he said. “With unemployment in Imperial County at 28.9 percent, there is no room for false steps. While the EZ program can be improved, we cannot accept proposals that effectively shut the program down in the name of ‘reform.’”

The 80th District’s three Enterprise zone managers were in attendance, as well as a number of local businesses, elected officials, and economic development professionals from the Coachella and Imperial Valleys who spoke about the significance of the EZ program for their communities.

The Imperial Valley was represented by Calexico-County Enterprise Zone manager Daniel Fitzgerald; Imperial Valley Enterprise Zone manager Diane Cason; Imperial Irrigation District Director John Pierre Menveille; County Supervisors Jack Terrazas and John Renison; El Centro City Councilman Efrain Silva; Brawley Mayor Pro Tem Sam Couchman; and Imperial City Councilman Mark Gran. Local businesses included Community Valley Bank, EnergySource, CalEnergy, and Simbol Materials.

Pérez has been a vocal supporter of local economic development and the need to empower local jurisdictions to attract business investment and job creation. As chair of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy, he has conducted oversight hearings, working group meetings, and stakeholder engagement on the program. The findings and proposals from that effort are included in his Enterprise Zone reform bill, AB 231.

According to state law, HCD may use the regulatory process to clarify the implementation of the existing program, whereas substantive program changes must be implemented through legislation.

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