Austin receives $1 million to build Eco-industrial park

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The U.S. Economic Development Administration on Tuesday awarded the city of Austin $1 million to build water and sewer infrastructure for its first Eco-Industrial Park.  The Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub will house green businesses that recycle, conserve and reuse energy, water and other resources.

“This grant is a great boost to our city and will be invested into Austin’s first Eco-industrial park,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell about the Public Works and Economic Development Facilities grant from the EDA. “It is estimated that the project will leverage more than $30 million in private sector development.”

The Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub will be at the city’s old FM 812 landfill in Del Valle.  It has 107 acres of undeveloped land where the Eco-industrial park will sit.

The City of Austin plans to match the funds provided by the EDA with $2 million, money city council would have to approve in August.

There will be about 12 lots open for businesses to lease that range from two to 20 acres at the park. Austin Resource Recovery said it doesn’t have specific criteria yet for businesses that want to submit a proposal. It did say it hopes to house a diverse group of industries in the park and will look at economic criteria like the number of jobs.

Officials believe the Eco-industrial park will generate about 1,250 jobs in the area.

“The president has said from day one, the cornerstone of this U.S. economy is manufacturing, it plays such an important role,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams who flew from Washington to Austin for the announcement. “To see ultimately manufacturing companies coming back to the city of Austin in a way that provides opportunities is something that everyone here should be proud of.”

Right now a lot of recyclable items are collected and sorted in Austin but are later shipped overseas and manufactured into something new. Officials believe the Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub will minimize the city’s carbon footprint and help achieve its Zero Waste Goal. That is to reduce the amount of waste in landfills by 90 percent by 2040.

Austin Economic Development Director Kevin Johns said even though Austin’s economy is booming, there are a lot of people “left behind.” He said 20 percent of the population is in poverty, which is about 150,000 people.

“We have to find out how to be creative and smart to get those people jobs,” said Johns. “A big solution is to find manufacturing jobs and green jobs and this project gets the core of that and this gets right to the heart of trying to find those jobs.”

He said the Southeast Austin area has 13 percent unemployment which is three times the unemployment rate for the rest of the the city. Johns went on to say that 85 percent of kids in Del Valle live in poverty.

“Manufacturing is on the rebound in America, in the Austin economy, it’s now grown to $10 billion and so we want to harness that for the working poor and to get people who either don’t have a college degree, under employed or who have been previously incarcerated,” said Johns.  “We want to focus on getting those people jobs and getting them out of welfare.”

Construction is expected to start next year and be available for business in the fall of 2015.  The old landfill closed in 2009.

Leffingwell said there is also a lot of land in that area that would be “prime” for another project.

“In recent years a lot of residential properties have been purchased and they’re basically empty right now, but they could be used for industrial uses,” said Leffingwell. “We haven’t identified specific properties we know there’s a lot out there in that general area where it needs to be to be used for these dame kinds of purposes.”

The city wants to put more resources into manufacturing because of how it addresses unemployment in undeserved populations. It said it will look for other opportunities in the future, but needs to get the Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub off the ground first.

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