You can show your support for keeping historic preservation tax credits by signing on to a group letter. This letter from MPA will be sent to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Representative Greg Gianforte, and Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines. Click on the Sign the Letter button below, fill out the form with your information, and MPA will add your name as a supporter. We will not sell or release your personal information to third parties and you can opt out of future Action Alert emails on the form. 


October 2017

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240


Dear Secretary Zinke:
This month, at the 10th Annual Montana Downtown Conference in Great Falls, business district representatives from every corner of Montana gathered to discuss successful economic development projects that are revitalizing our communities.  One important development tool used widely in Montana is the federal historic tax credit (HTC).  Given the Department of Interior’s role in jointly administering this program with the Department of the Treasury, we urge your support for continuing this long-standing and successful preservation and community revitalization program as efforts to reform our nation’s tax code move forward.  

Between 1990 and 2016, the federal HTC was used to rehabilitate over 70 historic Montana buildings, creating 1,410 local jobs, increasing property values and boosting the local tax base. The U.S. Treasury's $14.5 million in tax credit incentives during this time period leveraged $73 million in private investment and returned almost $14.6 million in taxes paid. In other words, this is one tax credit that pays for itself.

Nationally, the same holds true. Research conducted for the National Park Service by Rutgers University's Center for Urban Policy Research shows that since 1981, the HTC has leveraged more than $131 billion in investment, created more than 2.4 million jobs, and rehabilitated over 42,293 historic buildings. Roughly $25.2 billion in tax credits has generated more than $29.8 billion in federal income taxes. 

In Montana, most buildings in our commercial districts are historic; and the HTC is the one source of significant, reliable funding to help investors bridge the gap between what a bank will lend and what a project will cost. This is a tool that Montana developers and business owners must have to make investments in historic downtown properties viable.

As Montanans we are proud of the iconic buildings that make our communities distinctive. If Congress eliminates the HTC, we fear for all Montana towns, but particularly for struggling rural communities working hard to attract new businesses and new residents.  
Montana is full of HTC success stories. In 71 projects over 27 years, the HTC has sparked investment across Montana, saving Ft Benton’s Grand Union Hotel, Great Falls’ Arvon Block and Whitehall’s Borden Hotel. In Billings, 10 historic tax credit projects combined to spark a downtown arts & culture district renaissance. At Fort Harrison, tax credits are now making it possible to transform 14 historic buildings into housing for homeless veterans... And the list goes on. 

A few highlights:

  • Billings:  In the last three decades, historic tax credit projects have revitalized blighted buildings from South Side warehouses to the Babcock Theater and the Montana Power Company building. This has transformed the downtown from a place of empty storefronts to a vibrant urban neighborhood buzzing with loft apartments, coffee shops, museums, theaters and hotels.
  • Great Falls: The Arvon Block, built in 1890 by pioneer rancher Robert Vaughn, was slated for demolition and replacement by a parking lot. Local veterinarian Peter Jennings came to the rescue and invested almost $7 million in rehabilitation costs. The building is now a great success story – the 33-room Arvon Hotel and Celtic Cowboy Pub, employs 40 local residents, attracts hundreds of visitors to downtown Great Falls each week, and contributes over $2 million annually to the local tax base.   
  • Butte: The 1910 Sears Building was originally the annex to Hennessey’s Department Store, one of Montana’s most opulent commercial buildings. After twenty years of vacancy, the building was revived through a tax credit project, to become a thriving neighborhood grocery and an anchor building that has stabilized Uptown Butte.  
  • Beyond these cities, we see investors in Shelby, Lewistown, Roundup, Anaconda, Dillon, Laurel and Townsend in pursuit of tax credits to finance new breweries, apartments, hotels, visitor centers and more. The HTC is key to many small town efforts to turn their economies around.

The National Park Service is provides strong stewardship of this key incentive. In fact, support for the federal HTC goes back to President Ronald Reagan and his historic 1986 reform of the tax code. Across the years, the federal HTC has proven itself a powerful incentive for private interests to do public good. It is a model of what a public-private partnership should be - one that doesn't rely on the federal government to shoulder the burden of the cost.  

As Secretary of the Interior, your voice is important in the debate about whether the federal historic tax credit remains in a reformed tax code. Providing leadership to retain and enhance the federal HTC is one of the most important actions you can take, to ensure downtowns in Montana and throughout the nation have the tools needed to attract private investment, create jobs, and preserve the character of our historic communities.   

Thank you for carrying our hopes and a Montana perspective to Washington, DC.