Historic Tax Credit program creates jobs and revenue, helps communities

This year, as Kentucky celebrates its 225th anniversary, staff from the Kentucky Historical Society are traveling the state to have a dialogue with communities about what makes the Bluegrass State special.

These conversations have brought up everything from coal, horses, bourbon and basketball to bluegrass music, Muhammad Ali, Colonel Sanders and numerous other people, places and things that make the commonwealth distinctive.

The participants understand why Daniel Boone called Kentucky “a Second Paradise.” They also care about their historic downtowns.

Today, the ongoing preservation of our historic buildings is in danger as Congress considers eliminating the federal Historic Tax Credit.

Those who qualify for this important program can receive up to 20 percent in tax credits on the amount they spend restoring historic buildings.

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the federal Historic Tax Credit has led to the preservation of 42,000 structures across the nation and created 2.5 million jobs. It has helped revitalize downtowns and created more than $29.8 billion in federal tax revenue.

In the Bluegrass State, where the Kentucky Heritage Council manages both federal and state historic preservation tax credits, the results have been equally as impressive. More than 345 Historic Tax Credit projects have put more than 9,500 people to work and generated nearly $16 million in tax revenue for Kentucky.

The program has restored churches, apartment buildings, businesses, theaters, banks, hotels, Masonic lodges, schools, post office buildings and more. From Pikeville to Paducah, the federal Historic Tax Credit has helped our communities prosper by creating jobs and raising tax revenue. It has also kept Kentucky’s historic fabric — our cultural heritage — intact.

Imagine what your community would be like without these buildings. These places make our hometowns unique and help make our state what it is. Living around these meaningful places that evoke memories of our shared past—including historic businesses, churches, stone walls, pastures, tobacco barns and more — is part of what makes us Kentuckians.

When President Ronald Reagan’s administration implemented the Historic Tax Credit, the president said, “Our tax credits have made the preservation of our older buildings not only a matter of respect for beauty and history, but of economic good sense.”

This still holds true for today. Because it creates jobs, bolsters tax revenue and keeps our historic communities intact, Congress should keep the federal Historic Tax Credit program.

Stuart W. Sanders is the Kentucky Historical Society’s history advocate.