It Takes A Community: By combining their resources and planning on a regional scale, these communities prioritized projects that helped the entire region.
The Downriver Community Conference (DCC) was formed to create a collaborative process for small cities to share financial and technical assistance. Its brownfield consortium showcases an innovative approach to redevelopment. Under a progression of U.S. EPA assessment and revolving loan grants, the DCC created a redevelopment model that identifies, investigates, and evaluates the potential future land use of selected brownfield sites within the participating communities. The DCC also provides for effective community outreach and involvement in the redevelopment process. By combining their efforts and prioritizing projects which will most benefit the region, the 12 communities of the DCC are able to do far more together than they could alone.
The VenTower project in the town of Monroe is perhaps the most high-profile beneficiary of the DCC’s assistance. Like many brownfield communities, Monroe is reinventing itself from the legacy of lost manufacturing jobs. VenTower, a fabricator and supplier of industrial-scale wind turbine towers, began manufacturing operations in September 2011 on a once-idled industrial dump. The concurrent environmental and economic benefits from the VenTower project illustrate the DCC’s goal of improving all facets of the community.
The project began at a time when financing was becoming increasingly difficult due to economic conditions, so securing all available grants and loans was essential. With the assistance of the DCC, the project secured $16.5 million in state and federal financial incentives for the project, including a combination of state brownfield grants and loans; an EPA brownfield loan; state brownfield tax credits; brownfield tax increment financing; and a Small Business Administration Section 504 loan. Other project incentives included an Act 198 Industrial Facilities tax abatement, MEGA jobs credits, and an alternative energy tax credit.
The project’s success is attributed to local groups, VenTower, state and federal regulators, and the DCC all working together in a public-private partnership that was committed to the project.