New center seeks environment-friendly growth

November 14, 2000

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell University and the University of Southern California will use a seed grant of $175,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce to launch the new National Center for Eco-Industrial Development.

Aiming to facilitate job growth and sustainable industrial expansion in economically distressed communities, the new center will encourage industrial ecology, establish eco-industrial parks and expand the use of processes to maximize communities' development potential.

"Just a few years ago, the promise of sustainable growth without trashing the environment was a fringe idea," said Ed Cohen-Rosenthal, director of the Work and Environment Initiative in Cornell's Center for the Environment and co-director of the National Center for Eco-Industrial Development. "Now, eco-industry is moving into the mainstream of economic development, bringing with it a focus on new partnerships in business and new, rewarding jobs in healthful workplaces."

Leonard Mitchell, co-director of the new national center and director of the USC Center for Economic Development, added: The center will be particularly active in promoting large scale eco-industrial development projects in conjunction with business entities in the United States and globally who demonstrate an interest in and a commitment to pursuing business strategic advantage through policies embracing business ecology, benign manufacturing and eco-industrial practices, driving sustainable business expansion and job creation."

The grant was awarded jointly by the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and is designed to allow the new center's researchers to develop a national training program, initiate a consortium of university researchers working on eco-industrial development, provide technical assistance and prepare Web-based resource manuals. Announcing the grant, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Arthur C. Campbell said: "Eco-industrial development can be used to turn brownfield sites and other underutilized areas into economic boons for surrounding communities. The National Center for Eco-industrial Development will help both urban and rural areas attract new industry and jobs while protecting the environment."

Cornell's Work and Environment Initiative has been providing assistance to proposed eco-industrial parks since 1993, WEI Director Cohen-Rosenthal noted. He pointed to several eco-industrial projects, which are detailed on the initiative's web site , as examples of different approaches:

• In Cape Charles, Virginia, eco-industrial development is already beginning to demonstrate its promise. The area's high unemployment and a faltering economy spurred local government officials and citizens to come together to create an eco-industrial development plan that commits to profitability while retaining the social and environmental integrity of the area. The result is the Port of Cape Charles Sustainable Technologies Industrial Park, an eco-industrial park fully leased in its first phase of building.

• At the Cabazon Resource Recovery Park, a project of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in Mecca, Calif., discarded tires from the Firestone recall and other sources are processed into high-quality crumb rubber to make highways, playgrounds and equestrian arenas safer. The park, located in a designated rural empowerment zone, is designed for a synergistic mix of enterprises to increase efficiency and improve economics and environmental benefits for each business. Plans call for enterprises such as metals reclamation, gasification, used-oil refinery, reclaimed glass and paper de-inking.

• In the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis a 10-acre site was destined to be a garbage-transfer facility until surrounding residents -- the ones who were left after 28 homes and fives businesses were razed -- had a better idea: a rebuilt commercial facility for high-growth innovative businesses that develop products and services to help restore the environment. Now in Phillips, the Green Institute has a sustainable-development enterprise, the ReUse Center, and is lining up more businesses with the assistance of local, state and federal government grants; foundation support; contributions from private corporations and individuals -- as well as revenue from its first business.

"The Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center (PEEC) of Minneapolis' Green Institute is using the geothermal capabilities of their site, as an alternative source of energy, and they're finding new ways to re-use building materials," Cohen-Rosenthal reports. "This is all happening in one of the poorest neighborhood of the city. This is what sustainable development is all about. They are revitalizing a distressed area and demonstrating to others what can be done for business, for people and for the environment."

Cornell University

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