“But for”: What Development Tax Break Means to Rural Communities like Browning, MT

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By: Dave Glaser

“The New Markets Tax Credit is widely viewed as a means to help reverse urban blight, by offering a big, 39 percent credit for certain money invested into low-income communities. But as the fortunes of America’s cities turn upward, many rural areas – one-industry towns where the closure of a factory or plant can devastate the local economy – have seen their fortunes fade.”

Source: National Journal, Nov. 15, 2017

If the House’s current version of the tax bill is approved, it will mean the end of a vital federal tax credit program that has generated investment of more than $11.6 billion – yes, billion – in rural areas since 2003. These are areas with 1.5 times the national unemployment average, and poverty rates of more than 30%. Many of them are located right here in Montana and Idaho.

One of the great challenges for our rural communities is the ability to attract capital from private-sector investors. Their capital can help create infrastructure, improve community facilities, expand health clinics, construct housing complexes, and build factories. These investments, in turn, create jobs, revitalize struggling economies, and catalyze additional investment.

However, since 2003, the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program has provided a way to overcome that challenge. The federally-backed program allows local community development entities like Montana & Idaho CDC to obtain and sell tax credits to investors to incentivize investment in communities that need it most. That means that places like Havre, Poplar, Butte, Polson (MT), Rexburg, Shelley, and Pocatello (ID) have been able to develop catalytic projects that – but for the help of NMTC – would not have otherwise been possible.

This week, our organization closed on a rural NMTC project in Browning, located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation just east of Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana. It’s a town of about a thousand people that has faced extreme financial hardships, including legal disputes over water and utility rights, the court-ordered sale of its assets to the Blackfeet tribe, and the recent dissolution of its municipal government.

With the help of NMTC, the local community college has secured a new $7.5 million building to expand its Health Science Education program. The investment will allow Blackfeet Community College to grow its two-year nursing and education programs into four-year programs. It also means that the college can recruit new FTEs, as well as employ up to 50 construction and predevelopment workers. As the college president said to me, “we’re going to be offering professional level training in a professionally designed building.” That’s a pretty exciting story for the people of Browning.

We’ve long had bipartisan support for this vital program, but we’ll need to double down to ensure it can continue to impact and stabilize our hardest hit rural areas. The time to act is now. Please contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to keep NMTC in the tax bill to ensure a thriving future for Montana and Idaho.

IDAHO:

  • Congressman Mike Simpson: 202-225-5531
  • Congressman Raúl Labrador: 202-225-6611
  • Senator Mike Crapo: 202-224-6142
  • Senator James Risch: 202-224-2752

MONTANA:

  • Congressman Greg Gianforte: 202-225-3211
  • Senator Jon Tester: 202-224-2644
  • Senator Steve Daines: 202-224-2651

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