CED gets grant for ecological waste research

A recently awarded grant from the US Department of Commerce will help a USC program expand its research on how to assist the economic development of local manufacturing companies, with the aim of creating jobs for both community members and USC students.

The two-year, $750,000 grant, given by the DoC’s Economic Development Administration, will allow the USC Center for Economic Development to research how to pair local businesses so they use each others’ waste and byproducts as fuel.

The research is based on the idea that one company can benefit from the products another company produces as waste, CED Program Director Deepak Bahl said. The research will focus on creating “equal industry parks” that help these companies share energy streams and byproducts, such as water or steam, to create new products.

“[We hope to] identify projects that could be developed and lead to the establishment of equal industry parks that create jobs,” Bahl said. “This will lead to better resource recovery and materials recycling and remanufacturing.”

The center, which is housed in the School of Policy, Planning and Development, will focus on businesses in a 21-county area of Southern California. The center hopes to provide technical assistance, applied research and information dissemination for the companies, through working with the local governments and non-profits.

“We hope to add some long-term impact on the manufacturing process thus increasing the number of people who work in the area in manufacturing — but that’s not a short-term goal,” said Leonard Mitchell, the executive director of the CED and professor at SPPD.

The project will not only provide jobs in the community but also part-time jobs to graduate and undergraduate students. These jobs will be offered mainly within SPPD, but the center will branch out to other schools, such as the Viterbi School of Engineering.

“Students are an integral part of the center’s activities,” Bahl said. “They are involved working hands-on on the project.”

Bahl said some student responsibilities include market analysis, feasibility studies, identification of potential tenants for the industrial park and outreach to local governments.

Joseph Marcos a graduate student studying policy, planning and development who is involved with the center, said the center’s work would help create a manufacturing base in Southern California.

“At the manufacturing and industrial level there are so many opportunities to create an immense amount of jobs in economic development,” Marcos said. “There’s a really a space for everybody in implementing green techniques.”

Although this grant will only provide two years of funding, Bahl added that they were hoping the research’s success would jumpstart the center’s other initiatives, such as transit-oriented studies and comprehensive economic development strategies for troubled communities.

“We are considering this a seed grant that we are able to expand into broader activities,” Bahl said.