Girard to Receive $500,000 Brownfield Grant

GIRARD, Ohio – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the city a $500,000 grant to help tackle a longstanding industrial eyesore.

The EPA announced Tuesday that it awarded Girard a Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup grant to remediate the former Ohio Leatherworks property at 1052 North State St.

“This is an honor to the citizens who labored at the Ohio Leatherworks from 1900 to 1970,” said Mayor James Melfi. “These citizens supported their families and our nation through two world wars. And now, a half a century later, a rebirth.”

The Ohio Leatherworks was a leather processing operation where animal hides were tanned, dyed, and tempered with chemicals to make them more pliable. Construction on the complex began in 1899 and it opened in December of that year under the name Mahoning Leather Co. During the first two decades, the company employed mostly immigrants.

During the early 1930s, the company employed more than 600 people and had its own marching band, according to records posted on the city’s website.

By the 1960s, however, the flood of inexpensive imported leather goods forced Ohio Leather to shut its doors, according to the company. The operations closed in 1970.

However, after 70 years of leather manufacturing, the 11.8-acresite remained among the most contaminated in the region. Officials have targeted this lot as a major priority for brownfield redevelopment.

“It’s encouraging to see this cleanup put into motion with federal investment to assist the hard work of the local community,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement. “The removal of contaminants is a critical step to bringing new business to Girard and I applaud the work being done in the community to make that a reality.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, Ohio, said that reclaiming sites such as the Leatherworks creates a number of economic, social and environmental benefits to communities all across the Midwest.

“Abandoned brownfields are eyesores and an impediment to local investment, so cleaning up this contaminated site is a significant development for Girard and Trumbull County,” he said.

EPA also announced a $300,000 brownfields grant to Rural Action Inc., bringing total statewide funding to $800,000.

“We are pleased to now work with our federal, state and local partners to transform these urban and rural brownfield sites into parcels that will be environmentally safe and useful for future generations,” added Ohio EPA Director Laurie Stevenson. “This is a good day for Girard and the state of Ohio.”

Since the program was established in 1995, the EPA has awarded nearly $1.72 billion in cleanup funds that have returned properties to productive reuse. Ohio alone has received $90 million in grant funding.

“EPAs brownfields program is providing critical funding to help empower Ohio communities to address the environmental, public health and social issues associated with contaminated land,” said Cheryl Newton, acting EPA regional administrator.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.