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Huntington to receive EPA grant to clean up brownfields properties, launch advanced polymer center

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the City of Huntington a $200,000 planning grant that will aid in cleaning up old industrial sites and facilitate the development of an “advanced polymer center” that will commercialize new technologies, foster entrepreneurship and train highly-skilled workers.

Huntington is one of only 20 communities nationwide this year to receive a grant under the EPA’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning program. EPA administrators selected Huntington as the location from which it would announce the grant recipients on Monday, March 9, because of its potential for revitalization and because of a collaborative team working to establish the advanced polymer center.

“The selected grantees have demonstrated a strong vision and partnership to catalyze brownfield redevelopment as a pathway to transform their communities into vibrant destinations for housing, manufacturing and transit-oriented development,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

Huntington seeks to spark reuse of more than 78 acres of underutilized, former manufacturing facilities located along the Ohio River between Marshall University’s campus and the Highlawn neighborhood. In addition to receiving the $200,000 planning grant, the Huntington Municipal Development Authority has applied for a $400,000 EPA grant to address any contamination issues at the sites. Since 2010, the 23 communities that have received the EPA’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant have leveraged approximately $418 million in investment.

Mayor Steve Williams said the planning grant and development of the advanced polymer center show how formerly coal-reliant communities can diversify and build 21st century, advanced manufacturing economies.

“The properties we seek to redevelop between Marshall and Highlawn are a silent reminder of how international policies have shifted the world economy and left our region with fewer jobs and limited opportunities,” Williams said. “The EPA’s planning grant places opportunity in the grasp of our city, state and region to transform ourselves to compete in the worldwide marketplace.”

The vision for these brownfields sites includes new recreational and riverfront facilities; retail and hotel development; research and development facilities; green infrastructure for storm water management; and the advanced polymer center.

Earlier this year, the City of Huntington, Huntington Municipal Development Authority, Marshall University, Marshall University Research Corporation, Marshall University Brownfields Assistance Center, Rural Transportation Institute, Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing and Rubberlite, Inc., formed a collaborative team to move the advanced polymer center forward.

Marshall University and Rubberlite will work with the city to launch the advanced polymer center in an interim facility in the former Appalachian Power offices on 6th Avenue. Manufacturing companies have already committed to transfer investment and jobs into the advanced polymer center later this year. More information about these companies will be available in the future.

The collaborative team is now working on a comprehensive plan to determine how the advanced polymer center will be governed, funded and operated. It will also secure investments from state and federal economic development agencies and philanthropic foundations to support the business planning initiative. The West Virginia Economic Development Office, Huntington Area Development Council and Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce will provide support for the center’s establishment as well as attract other companies to utilize it and expand its reach into other communities.

The advanced polymer center will foster research and development to support the growth of regional manufacturing. It will provide companies developing market-driven technologies and products with the resources to commercialize and integrate into new light-manufacturing plants and the global supply chain. It will also leverage the region’s historical strengths in petrochemicals, transportation and natural resources, along with efforts of government and higher education, to drive industry diversification and economic growth.

“Our vision is to create a world-class technology, commercialization and light-manufacturing center for the Appalachian region and the entire country,” said Mark Bates, president of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority. “The brownfields sites between Marshall University and Highlawn are the next frontier for economic development, and their transformation will require strong public-private partnerships just like the ones that were formed in the redevelopment of the former Owens-Illinois factory in Huntington’s West End and the construction of KineticPark.”

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