Cross pollination in the plant world is a vital step in the production of healthy plants and crops. In the world of economic development, it's often called regionalization. Whatever the term, the fact is there's a force in numbers that's harder to ignore than small groups all asking for the same thing, so it is a welcome step to see the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Jefferson County Port Authority talk openly of working together on a major grant initiative. The agencies have decided to apply jointly to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a $600,000 grant to refurbish brownfields – former factory or other sites where pollutants are likely to be in the ground – for re-use and redevelopment. Jefferson County has seen success in obtaining such a grant in the past. So have the BDC and the BHJ. A joint application means sites in all three local counties can benefit from one big grant. The BDC has had some of the largest success, obtaining $2.5 million from the EPA to leverage $70 million in private funds, leading to redevelopment of several sites. Jefferson County several years ago obtained $1 million on its own for assessment of sites. The coalition that crosses the Ohio River and the Ohio-West Virginia state line, and two federal regions, could serve as a model for the nation, according to Pat Ford, director of the BDC. Ford should know, given that the EPA has not only awarded grants but honors have come the BDC's way for its innovation in applying for, and using, federal development and brownfield grants. In the post-steel era, the area has major sites that will need remediation before re-use. Showing success in working as a region can help the area obtain assistance for bigger and bigger projects in the years to come. And, though it is a matter of cleanup now, those cleanups lead to sites that are ready and available to companies seeking new places for offices, manufacturing facilities, labs, and more. We congratulate the local development agency officials for thinking outside the box, across the river and beyond the federal regulatory districts to seek a benefit for the whole region.
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