CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - SENATE
MARCH 15, 1961
AREA REDEVELOPMENT ACT DEBATE.
Mr. MUSKIE. I thank the Senator from Illinois.
Mr. President, I rise in support of the pending bill.
Six years ago I took office as Governor of the State of Maine. Maine was at that time suffering from a recession. Our textile mills had been in trouble, and some had closed. Unemployment dogged other areas of the State. The major task of my first administration as Governor was to mobilize the resources of State Government to help communities help themselves. We reorganized our department of economic development and made a determined effort to attract new industry to our State. We gave assistance to communities endeavoring to rebuild themselves to provide an attractive climate for economic growth. Later we established the Maine Industrial Building Authority to provide capital for the construction of new plants and facilities.
Much of this work has been successful. We have been rewarded by new industries and new jobs. But in spite of this, Maine in still in trouble in unemployment and underemployment. Unless we use the additional resources of the Federal Government, acting for the Nation, we will condemn these communities to painful years of readjustment. There may be those who consider such hardship good for the character of those who struggle against adversity. I disagree. There is nothing to strengthen the character in hungry children, fathers without jobs, plants without tenants, communities without adequate tax revenues. There is nothing of the American dream in areas where the investment of a lifetime of work is swept away by conditions beyond the control of those involved while others stand by in comfortable apathy.
Consider the plight of cities like Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, once buzzing centers of textile manufacturing. Today over 7 percent of the labor force in these twin cities is unemployed --this in an area where one of the most aggressive economic development efforts has been carried out. These efforts have paid off in terms of 1,300 new jobs during the last 5 years. But at the same time, 2,800 jobs have been lost -- 1,900 of them in textiles. There has been a net loss of 1,500 jobs in half a decade.
The State of Maine has serious economic problems, despite its great natural resources, the skill of its workers and the efforts of its citizens. At the end of the year our rate of unemployment was 10.3 percent, the ninth highest in the country. As a seasoned observer wrote me recently:
The economic situation in this area has been dubbed with many fancy names, but from where I sit it has all the earmarks of a full-fledged recession.
At the present time we have three areas qualifying for assistance under the provisions of the area redevelopment bill: Lewiston-Auburn, as I have mentioned, has an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent; Biddeford-Saco-Sanford's rate of unemployment is 8.8 percent; Calais-Eastport, our most distressed area, has an unemployment rate of 25.4 percent. Within the last 3 years it has ranged as high as 38 percent. In addition the Portland area, which includes our largest city, has an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent.
Obviously, these communities need help. The area redevelopment bill would provide the tools and the resources of the country to aid these distressed areas.
Some of my colleagues have raised objections to this proposed legislation. I am sure the remarks of the distinguished chairman of the Subcommittee on Production and Stabilization has answered most of the questions. I wish to make several observations on specific points.
The bill provides no magic answers. It contains no panaceas. It guarantees nothing by way of results in any specific community or area. Its purpose is to provide tools for the use of local people, local initiative, and local ingenuity in redeveloping the economic resources of their communities. There is no suggestion that prosperity can be created by law, or that jobs can be brought into existence by a stroke of the legislative pen.
We who support the bill fully realize that economic activity and employment are generated by private enterprise. We realize that a community which will not help itself cannot be helped. We realize that, unless a community or area contains useful economic resources, it cannot be made a job-producing, wealth creating section of the country.
There are, undoubtedly, once-prosperous areas in the country whose economic resources have been completely exhausted beyond any hope of restoration.
On the other hand, there are areas which have been bypassed by rising economic tides; or, whose industrial bases have been undercut by technological changes; or, whose production of industrial agricultural, or fisheries products has been bypassed by changing consumer tastes or new products; and which still contain elements of economic strength and vitality worth saving and using.
It is the assumption of the bill that such opportunities can be developed by human will and ingenuity. The bill recognizes, however, that in too many instances such an effort may fail because local resources do not include the necessary capital, the technical know-how, the industrial skills.
Community facilities may not be such as to attract new industry, Community resources may be inadequate because of a deteriorated tax base and chronic low income of its citizenry.
And so, the bill would provide:
First. A revolving fund from which businessmen could borrow part of the funds needed for expansion or for new enterprises.
Second. Loans and grants for community facilities.
Third. Occupational training and retraining.
Fourth. Subsistence payments to unemployed workers undergoing training.
Fifth. Technical assistance.
Do these tools duplicate others already in existence? To a certain extent, yes; but this fact, rather than constituting a source of criticism, suggests a very desirable flexibility. Moreover, the bill would provide an integrated approach toward this problem which is not now possible.
Are there other tools which would be useful? Probably; and there is nothing to prevent our adding them whenever experience under the program demonstrates their need.
We have an opportunity, through the proposed legislation, to build on our experience in other programs. We have the urban renewal program, the Small Business Administration, and the Small Business Investment Act at the Federal level. In our States, we have development agencies, planning agencies and credit facilities which have developed techniques of redevelopment, in urban and rural areas. What we seek to do is to apply these techniques, with the resources of the Nation, to situations in which local resources cannot do the job alone.
We have heard complaints that the rural development sections of the bill are oriented toward the South. There in no evidence in the bill that this is so. If there are more rural areas in any section of the country which qualify for assistance under objective criteria, I fail to see the logic of opposing aid to such sections simply because they are not in our own backyard. If there is a need, then we should meet it, and not let our vision be narrowed by selfish and shortsighted considerations. This proposed legislation should not serve as an excuse for regional bickering.
Another objection I have heard has been directed at the alleged reduction in initiative which will stem from passage of the bill. On this point, I suggest that the critics examine the bill and note the requirements for local planning, contributions, and participation.
We are not taking anything away from anybody. We are saying to the depressed areas, "We are aware of your troubles. We know that industrial or agricultural losses have drained away your resources. Here are the tools to help you do the job. We are willing to work with you as you rebuild your communities. We have confidence in your ability and we are willing to invest in your future."
In conclusion, I wish to take note of complaints on possible pirating under the bill. As originally written, the bill prohibited the use of Federal funds for relocation of industries when such would result in substantial damage to the area of original employment. Some felt this language was not strong enough. I was pleased to work out language on this point and to submit it to the committee in cooperation with the senior Senator from Connecticut (Mr. BUSH). Page 35 of the committee report contains an explanation of this provision.
I point out, in addition, that under the Small Business Investment Act we have a precedent for preventing the pirating of industry through the use of Federal funds. The act prohibits such use of funds, the Small Business Administration regulations under the act spell out these prohibitions, and the contract forms used under the program effectively prevent evasion of the act and regulations and provide penalties for noncompliance. I see no reasonable cause for fear on this question.
Mr. President, my experience as Governor, my service on the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, and the continued conditions of economic distress in many areas of our country convince me that this proposed legislation is needed, and needed now. I urge passage of S. 1, as reported by the committee.