By Kara Allison, APR  |   June 30th, 2015
Brownfields can be redeveloped into community assets in Appalachia. Insisting this was even possible to industry insiders just a decade ago would have likely invoked raised eyebrows – at a minimum – followed by hefty doses of skepticism. Without hesitation, experts well-versed in economic development and real estate could rattle off in quick order a laundry list of the challenges to redeveloping brownfields in Appalachia: legally-complicated and environmentally-decrepit sites left wasting away for too long; no available funding resources or deep pockets interested in paying for cleanup; a skilled workforce that moved away long ago in search of opportunities elsewhere; a lack of dedicated local or regional investment to support such a huge undertaking; crumbling infrastructure in desperate need of replacement; and the poverty – the unimaginable rates of community poverty. And a list of possible solutions to addressing brownfields in Appalachia? Even more difficult to come by.
Although the change in attitude has been many years coming, a new focus on brownfields is now slowly beginning to emerge across Appalachian communities. Local leaders and economic development officials are banding together with residents and business owners to begin developing regional best practices and “smart growth” approaches to redeveloping brownfields, including applying for funding assistance from federal agencies like U.S. EPA, EDA, and HUD. Communities are establishing local advisory committees focused on identifying brownfields and infrastructure challenges, and coming up with ways to address those issues one checklist item at a time. Appalachian communities are no longer looking at their brownfields as tarnished local liabilities, but rather are finding new ways to market these properties to national site selectors as future redevelopment assets. Helping to spur some of this new activity: the growth of the oil and gas industry in states like Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The shale boom is putting a new spotlight on long-overlooked communities in Appalachia and their available properties, and the investment is beginning to pay off in the form of new jobs, infrastructure improvements, and long-range community planning.
And others in the redevelopment world are taking notice, too. In fact, the Brownfields 2015 Conference, scheduled for September 2-4 in Chicago, will feature a planning session aimed specifically at Appalachian communities. “Tackling Brownfields in Appalachia: A Planning Roundtable” is set for September 3, 2015, at 12:45 p.m. in the Stevens Salon A-4 at the Hilton Chicago. This roundtable discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities facing Appalachian communities when it comes to redeveloping brownfield properties, including community planning, infrastructure, re-use of long-idled facilities, workforce development, and social issues. Designed as an informational planning forum, the session will assist Appalachian and other small communities in defining the issues surrounding brownfield redevelopment in economically-challenged areas of the country, while sharing tips, techniques, and case studies that will inspire creative ideas and collective sharing among the participants. The session also includes ideas for sustainable approaches to planning, assessment, and redevelopment that can be the spark to revitalizing Appalachian communities and help support economic market planning for new job growth. Featured experts in the session include Huntington, WV Mayor Steve Williams and Southern Ohio Port Authority Executive Director Jason Kester.
For more information about the Brownfields 2015 Conference, visit: http://www.brownfieldsconference.org. Information about the “Tackling Brownfields in Appalachia” planning session at the conference can be found at: http://www.brownfieldsconference.org/en/Session/2168?returnurl=%2fen%2feducation%2feducational_sessions.
Kara Allison, APR, Director of Communications, Government and Community Relations
Kara Allison directs Hull’s corporate communications and public affairs initiatives where she specializes in state and federal environmental policy and legislative issues, community outreach, media strategy, and crisis communications.  As a part of Hull’s funding team, she has assisted in securing more than $185 million in grants for brownfields, energy, and green development projects.  A journalism graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Kara has 20 years of experience in public and media relations.  She is a principal in the firm, an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and a registered lobbyist in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Kara builds credibility with legislators, government officials, municipalities, community groups, and reporters by helping them understand the various environmental issues associated with development projects.  She also works with developers and communities in public-private partnerships to help foster creative redevelopment and funding strategies for brownfield and renewable energy sites, and has been directly responsible for developing public relations and community outreach strategies for a number of high-profile, large-scale national redevelopment projects.  She routinely provides public outreach and media counsel and shares her in-depth regulatory, legislative and program knowledge with staff and clients. 
Great article. Like the work you are doing. Good job!
- Al Smith
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