Why do Historic Tax Credits matter to small towns in Alabama, too?

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You may have read by now about this week’s decision by Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh to allow the Alabama Historic Tax Credit to die without being considered by the Senate. He says he wants more information, despite a Novogradac study that was very thorough, in order to know whether its good for Alabama.  (It seems that 32 of 35 senators – including MARSH HIMSELF – who were co-sponsors aren’t convincing enough).

Much has been written about the effect of the decision on places like Birmingham and Mobile, but it occurs to me that many don’t know about the need for the HTC in smaller, Main Street communities in the State of Alabama.

My firm alone has had discussions with and in some cases done significant work in support of projects in at least five cities that would benefit from the credit.  I can say with certainty that one or more projects in the cities of Selma, Fayette, Monroeville, Union Springs, and Livingston, would need this credit to have a chance and that without it, financial feasibility is highly doubtful. No doubt there are many more such projects that would be dead in the water without this credit.

While our state continues to do an outstanding job of recruiting major corporations and industry to locate here, what are we doing to ensure that Main Streets in Alabama are revitalized?  Not very much, I’m afraid.  Instead of sending the message to rural communities that finding the next Mercedes or Airbus is the salve for their woes, we should encourage them to rebuild and make vibrant the communities that they have.  Even when a Honda or a Remington come to town, they want quality of life for their employees.  And when you restore a town square, reopen a historic hotel, or make it possible for people to open professional offices in unused spaces…that’s a win for everyone.

Unfortunately, we don’t have many of these success stories in Alabama just yet – they’ve been in pre-production so far, at least until the brakes were thrown on last week.  But the video below, from TEDx Cleveland’s Jeff Siegler, “Building Community Through Historic Preservation,” is a good trailer for the story we hope to one day tell about Alabama.