Last week, we hosted a very successful seminar covering commercial and industrial property redevelopment. I participated on a panel that included JobsOhio, the City of Cleveland and TeamNEO discussing brownfield redevelopment, in particular, incentives. A major focus of the discussions was the relatively new JobsOhio Revitalization Program.
I have worked with JobsOhio on brownfield projects and have experience with how the new program operates. It is very different then the old Clean Ohio program which operated for over a decade.
Here are some of the key pieces of information that I learned either at the seminar or through my experience working with the program over the last year.
Available Grant and Loan Brownfield Incentives
- Phase II Assessment
- Up to $200,000 in grant funds for Phase II sampling
- Phase I must be completed prior to application
- JobsOhio said a project "needs a high likelihood of job retention or creation, not certainty at this stage"
- Revitalization Loan Fund
- Low interest loans up to $5 million, covering 20-75% of project costs
- End user and job creation/retention
- Industrial, commercial or mixed use w/office
- Principal & interest free during construction (i.e. until certificate of occupancy)
- Revitalization Grant Fund
- Up to $1 million in grant funds for cleanup and other eligible costs
- Typically coupled with a loan where grant acts to fill funding gaps
Who and What is Eligible
The JobsOhio program has wider eligibility than Clean Ohio. Businesses, developers and non-profits can all apply for incentives without going through a local governmental entity. However, the entity cannot have been directly responsible for the environmental contamination (with some limited exceptions based on the structure of the deal).
Eligible Use of Funds
A wider array of costs are eligible for reimbursement under the JobsOhio program. In fact, it was noted during the program that 50% of the projects JobsOhio has funded did not involve contamination.
Eligible costs include any of the following:
- Phase II environmental assessments
- Demolition and disposal
- Environmental remediation
- Building renovation
- Site preparation
- Environmental testing & lab fees
Criteria for Evaluating Projects
JobsOhio utilizes three basic criteria when evaluating projects:
- Jobs (private sector)
- Wage rate
- Private v. public & JobsOhio investment
- Capital investment in addition to site preparation
- Priority for JobsOhio targeted industry projects
- Certainty of Completion
- End user commitment
- Completeness of redevelopment plans
- Adequacy of project funding
Key Differences between JobsOhio and Clean Ohio
Having worked on multiple projects under both programs, it is fair to say there are very significant differences between the two programs. Here is a list of key differences:
- No VAP Covenant-Not-Sue Required under JobsOhio- As discussed above, 50% of the projects don't even involve contamination. All brownfield Clean Ohio projects involved contamination. Even with sites that have contamination, JobsOhio says they will not require you to complete Ohio EPA's Voluntary Action Program in all cases.
- Application Costs and Timing- The JobsOhio application process is significantly faster than Clean Ohio. All applications can be filed on a rolling basis. The amount of information required to find out whether you will receive an award is vastly different. Under JobsOhio you can find out whether you will qualify for funding very inexpensively. Under Clean Ohio it could cost $20k-$50k to find out whether you would be funded. Also, funding under Clean Ohio was more of a political process that was largely determined by which projects were most favored locally.
- Flexibility- JobsOhio provides greater flexibility in terms of the projects that can qualify. Also, a wider array of costs are eligible for reimbursement under JobsOhio. There is also greater flexibility to structure the incentives under JobsOhio to fit your project. No rigid match requirements or artificial caps on certain costs.
- Confidentiality- The Clean Ohio process was entirely public. All applications and reports were public records. Under JobsOhio, a company can keep deals confidential until a public announcement is made regarding the award. There is even the opportunity to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement with JobsOhio.
- Funding- Unfortunately, JobsOhio does not provide the same level of grant funding as Clean Ohio. For smaller, less contaminated sites this is not an issue. For sites involving very significant contamination or complex cleanups, the $1 million in available grant funding may not be sufficient.
- Jobs Requirement- All JobsOhio projects must involve either job retention or creation. Under Clean Ohio, there was the opportunity to cleanup sites without firm job commitments in order to attract development to strategic areas.
- Criteria for Award- Clean Ohio had a published scoring system that could provide potential applicants some sense of whether they would qualify for money. JobsOhio has the three criteria discussed above (jobs, investment and certainty of completion), but there are no hard and fast rules of when they will fund a project.