From building new plants to purchasing cutting edge equipment to introducing new product lines, there are hundreds of potential industrial projects across the country that are stalled as companies struggle with how to finance them in the midst of a challenging traditional financing environment.

But there is a way to get these projects moving.

For those companies that can provide a measurable, tangible benefit to economically distressed communities (e.g., job creation and environmental sustainability), there are a variety of local, state and federal programs that can help. One in particular, the federal New Markets Tax Credits program, is attracting capital to hundreds of businesses, especially in rural pockets of America, so they may acquire property, build plants and retrofit out-of-date facilities with new technologies.

In the process these manufacturers are not only growing their businesses, they are also contributing to empowering and revitalizing local communities. For that reason the U.S. Treasury, which administers the program, is on the record seeking more manufacturing projects for investment.

Take the example of Horsehead Holding Corp., one of the largest zinc producers in the United States and a manufacturer of value-added zinc products, including zinc oxide and zinc powder. Horsehead is both an integrated producer as well as a producer of zinc from recycled sources. Horsehead’s recycling facilities recover zinc from electric arc furnace (EAF) dust, generated by minimill steel producers. EAF dust is one of the largest solid waste streams produced by electric arc steel furnaces, and is labeled as hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is estimated that several million tons of EAF dust is produced worldwide.

In 2009, Horsehead’s management sought to build a plant to recycle EAF dust, at a cost of $87 million. This facility would provide them a competitive advantage, creating a green option for steel producers in lieu of land-filling or other expensive disposal methods. And commercial customers of one of the eventual end products – zinc oxide – particularly in the rubber and plastics industries, have a “greener” source point in their supply chains.

The Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company was attracted to building the facility at an industrial park in rural Barnwell County, S.C., a location that serves as the centerpiece of a local economic development plan. Since 2007, poverty rates there exceeded 20%, largely due to the closing of textile and apparel plants that had employed 10.5% of the local workforce. The State of South Carolina ranked Barnwell County as “distressed,” its most acute development tier.

Financial incentives from municipal, state and federal sources accelerated Horsehead’s original construction schedule. To raise capital for this project – from constructing the facility to the purchase and installation of two Waelz Kilns – Horsehead received $10 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocation from both CEI Capital Management and Bank of America, with Bank of America providing equity for the deal, while Horsehead self-funded the debt portion.

The facility began receiving EAF dust ahead of schedule in April 2010, and has the capacity to process up to 180,000 tons per year of EAF dust. The community benefit is significant too. Horsehead created over 50 new jobs with an average annual wage that exceeds the county per capita level by 62%.