Ohio report touts brownfield investments, tax credit at issue in Mass.

An extension of the Brownfields Tax Credit program through 2018 — a component of transformative redevelopment in Gateway Cities — will be taken up in the state Senate this month, after being included in the House’s fiscal 2014 budget recommendations. The value of such a program was affirmed last week by a report from the Greater Ohio Policy Center.

“Investing in Brownfields: The Economic Benefits of the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund,” reports an “an impressive return on investment” on state grants to help acquire and clean up potentially contaminated brownfield sites, and to prepare them for redevelopment with private-sector partners. Ohio’s brownfields program, approved by voters in 2000, has so far granted $315 million to 160 projects. The authors of the GOPC report examined 21 representative projects — such as a new neighborhood in Columbus on the former site of a vegetable oil refinery — and calculated the following benefits:

• The 21 Projects resulted in a net positive value for the state’s investment, producing $1.16 billion in one-time contributions and $1.4 billion in annual contributions to the state GDP.

• Goods and services related to predevelopment alone produced a return on investment of $4.67 in new economic activity for every one dollar spent by the Program on the 21 Projects.

• For every job created or sustained through activities directly tied to a remediated brownfield, more than one additional job was indirectly created or sustained by the 21 Projects.

• Predevelopment and construction activities in the 21 Projects created more than $360 million in household and business earnings, while ongoing project operations produce almost $500 million in household and business earnings annually.

• The 21 Projects annually generate $55 million in state and local taxes and were responsible for an additional $42 million in one-time state and local taxes.

The report concludes that “A basic financial goal of the Program — leveraging private investments with public grant dollars — has been achieved.”

The tax incentive program is Massachusetts, which would expire this year without an extension, is part of a larger strategy to redevelop former industrial sites. Success stories, as compiled by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, include the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield (on the former site of a Bay State Gas Company plant), the cleanup of the North Common neighborhood in Lawrence, and vegetable greenhouses in New Bedford (on the former site of the Alden Corrugated Container Company).

An amendment to extend the brownfields tax credit, introduced by Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral of New Bedford was adopted by the House as part of its budget recommendations in April. The extension is also part of H.311, a larger bill “to promote transformative development in gateway cities,” that was filed by Rep. Cabral and Sen. Benjamin B. Downing of Pittsfield in January. That bill is still being considered by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

                    – Robert David Sullivan

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