Southeast cities have united on two fronts to form an economic development coalition to attack social problems in the area.
Leaders in eight cities have voted during the past month to form a nonprofit community development corporation that they hope will help give the region clout, making the area more eligible and more attractive to public and private funding groups.
In addition, six cities have created a consortium to apply for joint designation as a federal Enterprise Community, part of a program under the 1993 Budget Reconciliation Act that would make the area eligible to receive investment incentives for businesses and as much as $3.5 million in social service grants. The act authorized the creation of 12 development corporations and 65 urban enterprise community zones nationwide.
The projects "create some joint vision on the region in terms of identifying needs and solving the area's problems," said George Cole, a Bell councilman and founding member of the development corporation.
The eight-city area represented by Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate and Vernon has lost thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue as industry has left the area. Up to 70% of the area's adults have not graduated from high school, and unemployment hovers at 10%, according to development corporation statistics.
If designated, the Southeast Enterprise Community, which would be eligible for specific federal funds, could funnel resources to its umbrella organization, the Southeast Community Development Corp., to be used for economic and community development, job training, housing and other projects that address the area's social needs, said Dolores Sanchez, a spokeswoman for Assemblywoman Martha Escutia (D-Huntington Park).
"Historically, the Southeast has lacked the strong community-based organizations that have the support and qualifications to go after large federal dollars and private foundation money," and the new development corporation can fill that gap, she said.
The corporation has already submitted an application to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for up to $1 million in tax credits for employers, she said.