Restoration development pioneer STORM CUNNINGHAM calls the trillion-dollar business of ecological and architectural restoration “the biggest thing you’ve never seen.” With new building development pushed to the brink and old systems deteriorating, he says, smart companies and investors are looking to restoration not only to save natural resources, but also to make money. American Way recently talked to Cunningham, author of The Restoration Economy, about the restoration biz (book excerpts available at www.restorationeconomy.com).
AW: WHAT IS THE RESTORATION ECONOMY?
SC: It’s all of the industry involved in restoring both the built and natural world. For the first time in human history, we’re in a worldwide crisis where three things are hitting at the same time; constraint (no room for new development without losing something); corrosion (aging, wasteful built environment); and contamination (both ecosystems and immune systems in danger).
AW: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR BUSINESSES?
SC: Opportunity. Any business in the old economy has an analog in the restoration economy. Software, construction, law, accounting, hardware, investing, technology — will all play a part.
AW: HOW CAN PEOPLE INVEST IN THE RESTORATION ECOMOMY?
SC: Buying real estate that needs to be restored, for example, is the ultimate in buy low, sell high. Cities will sell properties for pennies on the dollar if you’re willing to clean them up — and then sometimes they’ll even reimburse you for the cleanup costs after you’ve installed legitimate businesses or residents.
AW: WHAT ABOUT INDIVIDUAL INVESTORS?
SC: When a city is doing a redevelopment project, individuals can buy single properties. They can also invest in spillover, that is, properties surrounding the redevelopment area, which also are likely to increase in value.