WASHINGTON -- Big federal tax breaks will play a major role in rebuilding auto dealerships and other businesses along the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast, if the Bush White House has its way.
But dealers and other businesspeople also should be eager to reinvest in the area because of its profit-making potential, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez says.
In remarks to dealers here last week, Gutierrez compared the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina to an undeveloped overseas market.
"There may not be a better investment opportunity," Gutierrez said.
More than 500 dealers and their allies gathered for the 30th annual Washington conference of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Normally an occasion to talk politics and lobby lawmakers for dealer interests, this year's conference focused instead on fallout from Katrina.
NADA leaders say they are not ready to seek special federal aid for the more than 200 hurricane-struck dealerships in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. They are waiting in part to see how much of the losses will be covered by private insurance.
Dealers also await details about a Bush administration plan for a Gulf Opportunity Zone. The proposal is to include a package of measures aimed at encouraging redevelopment and reinvestment in the region, including major tax write-offs.
Last week, Congress approved an initial relief measure that will give tax credits for keeping workers on the payroll to businesses closed by the hurricane.