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White House Empowerment Conference

Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
White House Empowerment Conference

                         Washington DC
                         July 15, 1998

     Welcome everyone.  Thank you all for joining us today.  I am delighted to be here with you and the members of our panel -- Mayor Corradini from Salt Lake City, Mr. Carlson, and Ms. Sherman. I am looking forward to hearing your ideas about how we can continue building cleaner, safer, and stronger communities across America.

     Our cities have seen some tough times. Over the years, many businesses and residents have turned away from our urban cores, moving to the first ring of suburbs, then to the next, and the next -- moving away from the crime, decay, and neglect that trademarked too many of our inner city communities.

     Ultimately, this has served few people well.  Long commutes, sprawl, vanishing open space, air pollution where the air was once clean and healthy -- these have become some of the new and unfortunate trademarks of American living.

      Today, however, we are on the threshold of a great renewal in this country.  Across America, our neighborhoods are coming back, many of our inner cities are once again vibrant with new businesses, restored housing, and busy tourist attractions.

     For the past five and half years, the Clinton Administration has made it a top priority to help bring back our cities -- community development banks, new business incentives in low-income communities, commercial loans in poor neighborhoods, and the cleanup and revitalization of our nation's abandoned industrial properties -- what we call our brownfields.

     Thank you to the President and Vice President, the driving force behind all this administration has been doing to restore our cities. Thank you to everyone here for your part in this renewal. Thank you for all you have done to replace the decay and neglect with hope, promise, and vision. Together, we have made great progress.

    The areas we call our brownfields were once sources of economic vitality, jobs, and community pride. But over time, they fell into decay, saddling communities with neighborhood blight and health hazards, robbing them of the opportunity to share in the nation's economic progress.

     On Monday, I visited one of these sites in South Florida -- the Poinciana Industrial Park. I met a remarkable man there -- Mr. Yap. Through hurricanes, crime, fire -- he has persisted and built a thriving business, and become a stronghold in the community.

     But he has hit a roadblock -- contamination stands in the way of his plans for expansion. The Poinciana Industrial Park is riddled with contaminated properties and boarded up buildings that don't just keep out vandals, but new businesses that could restore this park and the surrounding area to the thriving community it once was.

     What I saw at this Florida industrial park is what we see in so many urban centers across
the country: The stigma of contamination and legal barriers keeping brownfields sites roped off, unproductive, vacant. We see developers choosing "green" sites outside our nation's cities, while urban centers slide into a spiral of neglect and abandonment.

     Today, EPA and the Clinton Administration are working with more than 150 communities -- from Sacramento to Pittsburgh to the community surrounding that industrial park in Florida.  Government, community activists, concerned residents, lenders -- we're all working together to clean up and breathe new life into these sites --  to return them to the economic engines they once were.

     And just this morning, the Vice President announced 71 more brownfields pilot project communities. Altogether, that's 228 pilots in just a few years of our program that are beginning to clean up brownfields -- small sparks that will light a fire of renewal throughout our cities, and throughout the nation.

     Our brownfields pilot project in Ohio's Cuyahoga County was the first success. Together with the community, we created more than 180 permanent jobs, added more than a $1 million boost to the tax base, spared greenfields from bulldozers, and most importantly, developed a collaborative, local-based partnership that, to this day, remains a model for brownfields renewal across the country.

     We've come a long way since those early days.

     In Dallas, Texas, a $200,000 grant from EPA has leveraged nearly $54 million in public and private redevelopment dollars.

    In Bridgeport, Connecticut, local vision has led to the cleanup and redevelopment of more than 120 acres of brownfields, creating hundreds of new jobs for Bridgeport's citizens.

     In Emeryville, California, the community has leveraged more than $650 million in public and private funds for their brownfields efforts. Today, more than 180 acres of the city's brownfields are getting a new lease on life.

     Together, in partnership, we are proving what the Vice President has told us again and
again: The environment and economy go hand-in-hand. We can have strong environmental and public health protections and still have robust economic growth. We can save jobs in our cities, we can even create jobs, and still safeguard our environment and health.

     This is this administration's guiding philosophy, the foundation of our work for the past five and a half years.
     Imagine these brownfields renewal projects. Two hundred and twenty-eight living laboratories of change, creativity and innovation -- and to boot, many of them are Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Communities. That's a lot of federal resources to foster change in our cities.

     So far, with only half our brownfields projects reporting results, nearly $1 billion has been leveraged in public and private funding for local neighborhood rebirth. And we have created more than 2,000 jobs in the process.

     And every single dollar raised, every single acre redeveloped, every single job created has been the direct result of partnership -- people working together to renew our cities.

     But what's truly remarkable, is that our work together has just barely begun.

     I am here to tell you that we at EPA and in this Administration are deeply committed to the President's Brownfields Program. We will do everything possible to ensure that this program continues to bring hope and promise to our urban centers.

     That is why we took action when we heard from many of our cities' leaders that federal assistance was piecemeal -- that sometimes it was actually hindering efforts to revitalize communities.

     We initiated the National Brownfields Partnership, to rally the federal family. When we started listening, we found we could put together exciting models of cooperation. We could do a better job for you if we pooled our time, resources, our staff talent.

     Proof  lies just a few hours from Washington -- in Northampton County, Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay. The county has received nearly $2 million in federal funding not from one source, but several.  

     The result is an industrial park that is a model of pollution prevention -- and built on an abandoned landfill and railyard. In a short time, the park attracted a European solar technology company. And today, out-of-work crab pickers now assemble solar panels.

     Under the National Partnership, Vice President Gore recently announced 16 Brownfields Showcase Communities across America. This initiative brings together the resources of more than 20 federal agencies to rebuild our cities. These will be our best efforts -- the federal family working together to bring about real change.

     And the partnerships don't stop there.

     EPA and the Economic Development Administration are working with Chicago, Baltimore, and Dallas to develop innovative approaches to development that demonstrate that  growth can go hand in hand with our efforts to provide the American people with clean air. Working together, we can prove that one does not have to come at the cost of the other.

     We are on a roll with the revitalization of our nation's brownfields. The President, Vice-President, and federal agencies are committed. The mayors are committed. The communities are committed.

     Let us continue our innovative work together. Let us redouble our efforts and continue to take risks. Let us be ever more steadfast in our determination to ensure that no city, no neighborhood, no community is left behind. And let us work together so that signs warning "danger -- contamination, keep out" continue to give way to signs of economic progress, new jobs, and community revitalization.

     Thank you.

     Before we begin the panel discussion, I would like to identify two experts in our audience today, who will be available to answer questions after the panel is concluded. Please stand when I call your name, so the audience can know who you are.

     Mr. Robert Hickmott, Senior Advisor to Secretary Andrew Cuomo at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

     Mr. Stan Newman, Associate Director for Community Development, The Federal Home Loan Finance Board, which regulates the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

     Thank you for joining us today.     And now it is my honor to turn to our panel -- three individuals who represent the key components of a successful brownfields redevelopment -- a mayor, a developer, and a community activist.

     First, it is my honor to introduce Mayor Deedee Corradini of Salt Lake City, Utah, who also is the new President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  

     Mayor Corradini's work to revitalize Salt Lake has gained her wide respect.  Under her watch, Salt Lake City has become a better place to live, work and raise a family.  She's increased parks, businesses, and public transit -- and decreased crime -- particularly gang-related crime. Any mayor would be proud of that record.

     Brownfields redevelopment is a natural fit for Mayor Corradini's vision of a more liveable Salt Lake City. She has been an early and active supporter of the brownfields program and Salt Lake was selected not only as an EPA demonstration pilot, but also as a showcase community.  

     Finally, I would like to congratulate Mayor Corradini for bringing the Year 2002 Winter Olympics to her fine city. Few mayors get to play host to the world -- it is both an honor and I'm sure, a daunting task. But I have no doubt that you and the residents of Salt Lake are up to it.  

     Deedee, again, I want to personally thank you for all that you have done to support the Brownfields Program.

     And now to you, Mayor.

    As Vice President for Ryan Development Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mr. Carlson is responsible for all aspects of real estate development -- from site selection and packaging to lease or sale negotiations.

     Kent's special expertise is with industrial customers and altogether, he has developed in excess of 1.5 million square feet of property throughout the United States -- and many of those feet have been brownfields. In fact, he was re-developing abandoned industrial properties before we even called them brownfields.

     We have a lot to thank Kent for: his skill in bringing together all the pieces of the brownfields puzzle is one of the reasons our program is such a success.

     Mr. Carlson, thank you for all have done for our cities.

    Ms. Jane Sherman is the Project Director of the Woonasquatucket River Greenway Project in Providence, Rhode Island.

     Jane's work typifies what citizens can do for their communities when they get involved in the brownfields program. Through commitment and tireless advocacy, Jane has negotiated with property owners, and local government to turn an old railroad into a bicycle path along the river and to restore two city parks.

     The Greenway project has been selected as one of the sixteen Brownfield Showcase Communities announced by the Vice President earlier this year. And Jane and her project have received merit awards from EPA, the State of Rhode Island, and other organizations.

     Thank you, Jane, for all that you have done.