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Defense Bill Removes Hurdles for BRAC Sites to Take Advantage of HUBZone

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first_img Dan Cohen AUTHOR The conference report for the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill provides a tremendous boost to base redevelopment projects attempting to attract tenants interested in qualifying for the Small Business Administration’s HUBZone program.Two key changes in the legislation, unveiled Tuesday by leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, would make it significantly easier for companies to meet the eligibility requirements of the HUBZone program — an initiative offering preferential access to federal procurements to businesses in distressed areas.One change would expand the boundaries of BRAC-related HUBZones beyond the actual base, allowing businesses to hire employees from surrounding areas to meet the program’s requirement for 35 percent of a participant’s workers to live within a HUBZone. The new language allows firms to draw employees from census tracts contiguous to the base, as well as from a second ring of census tracts touching the first ring.Without the change, companies hoping to take advantage of BRAC-related HUBZones needed to find employees living on the former base, a requirement that is virtually unattainable.The legislative change also means companies would be able to take advantage of a BRAC-related HUBZone by locating beyond a closed installation’s boundaries.The change would help base redevelopment projects attract HUBZone participants as well as help the surrounding communities affected by a base closure attract companies looking to participate in the SBA program, explained Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the LRA transforming the former Brunswick Naval Air Station in Maine into Brunswick Landing.The legislation also would extend to eight years — and longer in some cases — the period for which a BRAC-impacted community is designated a HUBZone. Bases that had been designated a HUBZone as of 2010 would retain their status until at least 2020. The extension from five years is needed because it typically takes at least several years for a military service to transfer ownership of an installation after it is formally closed.The new language is a significant improvement, said Levesque. “This is an actual tool that really works for all the communities affected by the 2005 base closure round,” he said.The changes also mark a major victory for ADC, which worked closely with the House and Senate Defense Communities caucuses to realize the relaxed eligibility requirements for BRAC-related HUBZone sites. Maine’s congressional delegation deserves much of the credit. Sens. Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I) introduced standalone legislation this year that was incorporated into the Senate version of the authorization bill. Earlier Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) sponsored an amendment which was added to the House version.“This bill takes a significant step forward in improving the HUBZone program for rural communities,” King said in a press release. “By revamping the eligibility criteria, towns and cities that have been hit hard by base closures will be better positioned to revitalize those former bases, jump start economic development, attract businesses, and create new jobs.”last_img

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