Builders and developers take note: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded to communities in 43 states more than $74 million in brownfields grants to help revitalize former industrial and commercial sites and turn them from problem properties to productive community use.

"By revitalizing and restoring neighborhoods nationwide, EPA's Brownfields Program is proving that being a little green is doing a lot of good," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, whose Agency awarded more than 1,000 assessment grants totaling approximately $262 million, 200 revolving loan fund grants totaling more than $200 million, and 325 cleanup grants totaling approximately $65 million. "These grants will help convert even more environmental eyesores back into sources of community pride."

EPA's brownfields assistance has attracted more than $9.9 billion in private investment and helped attract more than 45,000 jobs. Brownfields are sites where expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Many builders and developers have turned to brownfields redevelopment as a new income stream and one that either serves as a niche business or supplements an existing specialty when local markets are in a down cycle. In fact, brownfields is big business and nowhere will this be more prominently displayed than the Brownfields 2008 Conference in Detroit at the Cobo Center on May 5, 6, and 7, 2008. The national brownfields conference will help attendees learn how contaminated and unwanted properties -- be they urban, suburban, rural, waterfront, tribal, or international -- might be transformed from a liability and expense for one organization to an asset and prime development or reuse opportunity for another. Except for certain extra sessions, the Brownfields 2008 Conference is free.

A key part of the conference is the Brownfields Transaction Forum, a 'can't miss' for developers because of its four-year track record of facilitating deals. At the Brownfields Transaction Forum, developers can meet with site owners about properties available for purchase and lease; look at detailed listing information and market data; attend educational sessions to learn how to purchase, sell, lease, and obtain financing for brownfields deals, and take part in a preconference workshop on how to market brownfields properties.

In addition to industrial and commercial redevelopment, brownfields approaches have included the conversion of industrial waterfronts to river-front parks, landfills to golf courses, rail corridors to recreational trails, and gas stations to housing. As of January 31, 2008, EPA's brownfields assistance has leveraged more than $10.4 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding and 47,201 jobs in cleanup, construction, and redevelopment. Assessments have been performed on 11,738 properties and 256 properties have been cleaned up.

"Through brownfields job training grants, EPA is literally putting both people and property back to work," added Johnson. "By teaching people the skills to revitalize their own neighborhoods; EPA is improving lives and livelihoods in communities across the nation."

One last positive note: the Bush Administration is committed to addressing brownfields cleanup and revitalization efforts. In 2002, President Bush signed the new Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act to help states and communities around the country clean up and revitalize brownfields sites.

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