Southwest Indiana Clearing a Path for Economic Development with help of EPA Grant

With the help of the EPA, some forgotten properties in Southwest Indiana are receiving a second chance of becoming beautiful and prosperous again.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana a $580,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant. The funds will provide help communities to assess contamination areas in designated brownfields for future clean up and revitalization. The grant will create an inventory of Brownfield sites in the region, assess a portion of the sites and will provide funds for mitigation and remediation of selected sites.

The program will help communities revitalize properties for the purposes of creating a better environment and improve the local economy by placing properties back on the tax rolls. Funds from the Brownfields Assessment Grant are divided into two program categories: $400,000 for hazardous substance and $180,000 for petroleum clean up.

Under the leadership of Coalition Vice President Debbie Bennett-Stearsman, the efforts to write the grant proposal were welcomed by local and regional partners during a brownfields workshop conducted by the Technical Assistance to Brownfields Program (TAB), an EPA-funded program at Kansas State University, and hosted by the Coalition in late 2013.

“We are very excited that our application was the only Indiana assessment application approved by EPA on the first submission,” stated Bennett-Stearsman. “Funding from this grant program assists our communities by providing the means to protect our environment as we clean up these sites that communities simply do not have the funds or staff to properly manage. More importantly, the program will help redevelop properties sitting idle, getting them back on the tax rolls and available for new development.”

The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana acts as the marketing arm and regional economic development organization for Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh, and Warrick Counties in Southwest Indiana. The Coalition works with its local county economic development organizational partners to facilitate attraction activities and supports efforts to enhance the business climate through regional capacity building. Since its formation in late 2006, the Coalition has helped to secure over $2.8 billion in new investment and 3,228 new jobs from existing and new companies such as Berry Plastics, Mead Johnson, Toyota Boshoku, Midwest Fertilizer Corporation and AT&T.

Another important aspect of the Coalition’s multi-faceted job description is helping the communities it serves build new capacity for future development. The Coalition has helped secure over $69 million in grants for such things as expansion of water and sewer systems; building new community centers; and, making improvements to the region’s levee system, which protects thousands of acres.