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In The Zone

It's been three years since Clinton's empowerment zones were first rolled out. Are they doing their job?

This story appears in the May 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In 1994, the Clinton Administration rolled out the Federal Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) Program with high expectations. So what has happened after three full years of empowerment zone operation? Have things improved, or is it just business as usual?

Those looking for quick fixes probably consider the empowerment zone initiative a failure. Even after receiving the official designation, zone administrators had to create governing bodies composed of government officials, business leaders and residents, as well as develop individual benchmark plans. In most communities, this process took at least one year to complete, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees the urban zones. (The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the rural zones.) In some cities, tension between the various factions made the process even more contentious.

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