By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The new US secretary of Housing and Urban Development visited West Philadelphia this morning to get a firsthand look at the federally designated “promise zone” there.

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Julian Castro greeted children at the Montgomery Early Learning Center.  Improving early childhood education is one of the strategies to end poverty in Philadelphia’s “promise zone” plan and,  as part of that effort, the center will act as mentor to other preschools in the neighborhood.

Castro says he was impressed.

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“I can’t think of a city that is getting all of this together better than Philadelphia. You all have a lot to be proud of,” he said.

Federal officials chose West Philadelphia as one of five “promise zones” in January.  Commercial and nonprofit partners get tax and grant application incentives for creating anti-poverty programs in those areas.

Drexel University and the William Penn Foundation teamed up for the early childhood effort.  Mayor Nutter predicts more will follow.

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“You’re going to see more affordable housing, people are going to get jobs,” he predicted, though he concedes it will take a long-term commitment.