Seeking support for his community development initiatives, President Clinton met Tuesday with bankers and businessmen at the White House.
"We should go to the 21st century leaving no one behind," the President said during a Rose Garden ceremony attended by Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill, BankBoston chairman Charles Gifford, New York Life chairman Sy Sternberg, and other business leaders.
The private sector should consider inner-city markets as potential sources of revenue, much like they view developing countries, Mr. Clinton said. "Our greatest untapped markets are here at home," he said.
Later in the day, the President led the executives on a tour of dilapidated sections of Atlanta. He plans to visit another economically depressed community July 5.
Vice President Gore touted the Community Reinvestment Act, saying it "played a big role" in sparking economic revitalization in some neighborhoods. Industry officials did not speak at the event.
In an interview, Michael Schlein, Citigroup's director of corporate affairs, said Mr. Weill attended because the company is a strong supporter of the President's reinvestment initiatives. "Citigroup has a long history of developing financial markets around the world and here at home," Mr. Schlein said.
The administration's "new markets" initiative, first unveiled in his fiscal 2000 budget proposal, seeks to draw $15 billion in new investment to poor urban and rural areas. Proposed inducements include a 25% tax break for investments in community development banks and other financial institutions devoted to sparking economic development.
The administration also would encourage small-business investments to focus on economically depressed areas, establish up to 20 venture capital firms specializing in poor areas, and give 10 more nonbank lenders permission to participate in the Small Business Administration's guaranteed loan program.
All these changes would require congressional approval, a fact the President acknowledged in his speech. "We need to have the Congress work with us in a bipartisan way," Mr. Clinton said.
A House Banking Committee spokesman said the panel will review the President's proposals. A hearing on some of the programs is scheduled for May 26, he said.