By Corey CarlisleOne of America’s greatest treasures, our National Park System encompasses more than 84 million acres comprising 408 sites, including historical or national parks, national monuments, battlefields, recreation areas and seashores. The National Park Service, which manages the system, is celebrating its centennial in 2016.
American Express has partnered with the Student Conservation Association to mobilize thousands of volunteers to conserve and preserve parks across the United States. These and other “Find Your Park” volunteer events will occur throughout 2016 and are designed to reintroduce our national parks to a new generation of Americans.
Banks and financial services companies have a longstanding commitment to the act signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 that created the NPS under a mission “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
For some banks, this mission has been a part of operations since the beginning. The founders of Bank of Jackson Hole, Jackson, Wyo., were inspired by their natural surroundings to form a financial institution that continues to serve their community with a deep interconnectivity with Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Bar Harbor, Maine, sponsors an annual half marathon and 5K through Acadia National Park.
Banks also support the NPS and communities across the nation by making investments that preserve historic buildings and promote economic revitalization through the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program. Administered by the NPS and the Internal Revenue Service, in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office, the program provides a 20 percent federal tax credit to property owners who undertake a substantial rehabilitation of a historic building in a commercial or other income-producing use while maintaining the building’s historic character.
The HPT has been used to attract new private capital to the historic cores of cities and Main Streets across the nation. This investment has, in turn, increased property values, created jobs, generated local, state and federal tax revenues and revitalized communities. U.S. Bank used the credit to transform Detroit’s 760,000-square foot Argonaut Building. The building, which sat vacant for more than a decade, is now an arts-focused educational center serving as a second campus for the College for Creative Studies, complete with 400,000 square feet of studio, classroom and administrative space, as well as student housing.
As of 2014, the HPT has preserved more than 40,380 historic properties, generated over $73 billion in private investment and created more than 2.47 million jobs. Over 137,000 low- and moderate-income housing units and a quarter of a million new housing units were also produced as a result.
The NPS’ Jeremy Barnum adds: “The Historic Tax Credit is an excellent vehicle for community reinvestment, and banks and other lending institutions have long been important partners in the success of the program. Lending and investment in the rehabilitation of historic buildings through this program not only help preserve the nation’s heritage, but promote economic development and community revitalization.”
By preserving and celebrating our natural and historic resources, current and future generations will enjoy a brighter economic future as part of our rich cultural heritage.