Official loaned to Cleveland

By Mike Tobin

*Plain Dealer Reporter*

Brooke Furio's orders are simple: Take dozens of abandoned industrial lots around Cleveland, clean the land and turn them into sites bustling with jobs and business activity.

Furio, 34, on Wednesday was named the city's first land revitalization manager. Furio will be "lent" to Cleveland for two years while technically remaining an employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal government will continue to pay his salary.

Furio will be responsible for starting a land-bank program so Cleveland can clean a variety of vacant properties and offer them to companies looking to expand or relocate.

"We want to get the land-bank properties on the same playing field as proper ties you'd find in the suburbs," Furio said.

There are about 18,000 sites in Cuya hoga County that qual ify as "brownfields" abandoned or under used industrial sites where redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination. In Cleveland alone, the properties collectively cover two square miles.

Cleaning up the land often costs millions of dollars, and businesses often find it cheaper to build on unused greenspace in the suburbs.

Cleveland needs to join with state, federal and private partners to clean the land so the city can compete with the suburbs in attracting businesses, Mayor Jane Campbell said.

"We've been doing this work systematically," Campbell said. "Now we have a person where this is their primary job."

Cities including Milwaukee and St. Paul, Minn., have taken advantage of the program where the EPA provides one worker to focus on cleaning brownfields.

In the past two years, Cleveland has created two development funds totaling $45 million, with some of the money earmarked for redeveloping brownfields.

Ohio has another $50 million, but that money is spread throughout the state.

Furio was raised in Cleveland but has spent the past seven years working for the EPA in Chicago. He'll work out of the city's economic development department four days a week, spending one day with the EPA updating them on Cleveland projects.

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