Brownfield project helps city retain jobs
Three years ago, when Toledo, Ohio, learned that one of its largest employers might move to another city, officials were alarmed. However, with creative ideas for brownfields use and a broad range of funding sources, the city was able to retain the employer – and thousands of jobs.
Toledo is a blue-collar town where, since the early 1900s, DaimlerChrysler has manufactured and assembled its world-renowned Jeep. In 1997, the company notified the city that, because the Jeep facility was outdated and no longer adequate for operations, the company was searching for a new plant location.
Relocation would have had an enormous impact on the city’s economy: The plant employs nearly 5,000 people, and there are additional Toledo businesses that supply the plant. All would be at risk.
Mayor Carleton Finkbeiner assembled a team of representatives from public and private organizations to identify parcels of land that would meet the company’s needs. There was very little greenspace in the city, and officials did not want to offer up greenspace in outlying areas. Instead, their goal was to provide a long-term industrial job site within the city limits, and that would require the use of brownfields.
Toledo developed a plan to assemble several parcels of land adjacent to the existing Jeep facility. It had to design a land-use strategy that would allow for expansion of the existing plant, from 190 acres to more than 400 acres. The design would include the transformation of existing railroad infrastructure into roadway access; relocation of railroads; nine road construction projects; and extensive environmental cleanup. Existing roads and utilities added to the plan’s advantages.
The company accepted the city’s proposal to use the brownfields. Environmental cleanup began within six months of the agreement, and, with the city’s attention to land-use approval and permitting, the company was able to build its facility in time for production of the 2001 models.
As a result of remediating land for the new Jeep site, Toledo has given new life to a contaminated area and preserved a major portion of its economic base. Additionally, the project has spawned other brownfields cleanups as support industry grows around the expanded plant.
The company spent $1.2 billion on its new plant, while Toledo invested $75 million for land acquisition, environmental remediation, road construction, railroads and utilities. The city was aided financially by utility loans, state grants and loans, water and sewer funds, a land sale, a HUD loan and a contribution from Lucas County. It is money well spent, according to the city: the new plant ensures that the company will stay in Toledo for at least 20 years.
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