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A new empowerment contracting program offers small business a huge advantage.

This story appears in the March 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Empowerment zones were one of those rare political ideas that evoked real excitement, quite simply because they made sense for all involved. Economically distressed areas would receive an injection of life, owners would get to tap a market in need, and the could encourage and discourage crime.

Too good to be true? Maybe not. Recently, the Department took the biggest step toward making empowerment contracting a reality since President Clinton first promoted the idea in August 1994. "One component of [Clinton's] affirmative action speech was his plan to establish a program that would provide preferences for businesses, regardless of race or , that were located in distressed areas," says Larry Parks, assistant to the secretary of the Commerce Department, and director of the Office of Regional Growth. "He wanted to use the government contracting system as a way to stimulate business growth in distressed areas."

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