"Promise zones" -- formerly known as "enterprise zones" -- are areas where the federal government reduces or even eliminates taxes. Additional federal dollars for police are also included, as are grants to help educate or retrain the jobless. President Obama wants them.
They often don't work.
Remoteness, poor infrastructure, and undereducated workers with little work ethic are the primary factors at work here, and "promise zones" simply don't do anything to counter-act these.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt began countering the Great Depression, he invested heavily in infrastructure. Since 70 percent of Americans lived in rural areas without electricity, he established the Rural Electrification Administration -- and within eight years, every single county in the U.S. had electricity. In the Tennessee Valley, where the most extreme poverty in America existed, Roosevelt established the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA engaged in flood prevention by building hydroelectric dams, electrified every home in the area, engaged in extensive environmental remediation, gave people jobs, built towns where none existed, built high-quality four-lane roads where only dirt paths had served before, and supported hundreds of small businesses. FDR also greatly expanded the Agricultural Extension Service to teach farmers and ranchers new techniques to rapidly boost crop and animal productivity as well as conserve, protect, and maintain land in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable manner.
Nothing President Obama has proposed comes close to what FDR did. Obama is proposing exactly when Ronald Reagan proposed (and won) in the 1980s. And the track record there is very, very poor.