A Path Forward for Communities Affected by the GM Bankruptcy

Over the past year, the Vice President and Middle Class task Force have visited revived auto plants, clean energy manufacturers, and other factories where Americans are making things to drive this economy forward.  And he’s always stressed how important these plants are to their communities.

One difficult challenge these communities face is how to move old and abandoned properties back into productive use. Too often, a combination of insufficient resources, uncertain environmental liabilities, and inadequate commitment from responsible parties puts shuttered facilities in a devastating limbo for years or even decades.  Empty buildings and chain link fences not only represent lost opportunities but have the potential to create a vicious cycle, driving down property values increasing crime and keeping communities from moving their economies forward.

That is why today’s announcement of an agreement between the Old General Motors and federal and state governments to establish a trust to clean up and repurpose 89 properties left behind in the GM bankruptcy is so significant. In total, this agreement will commit nearly $800 million to support clean up and redevelopment at these sites.  It is not only the largest and most inclusive environmental trust in United States history, but it provides a mechanism to break this cycle in communities across the country. 

The details of the agreement are here, but the concept is pretty simple – by providing necessary clean up costs along with a coordinated framework for addressing environmental liabilities, communities will be given a chance to see much quicker reuse and redevelopment than would otherwise be the case.  And they’ll create some good jobs along the way.

The trust will be administered by Elliot Laws, who previously served at the Environmental Protection Agency. He will work closely with state and local communities when selling or repurposing the properties, to ensure that the reuse creates more jobs in the community and that state and local views are taken into account.

It’s a good example of what is possible when government agencies at the federal and state level come together to find creative ways to solve problems. And for communities across the country it means economic development and jobs for middle class families.

Jared Bernstein is Chief Economic Advisor to the Vice President

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