A while back, Michael Kim’s company won a bid to replace lights and fans in King County Housing Authority units. He added a couple employees to his small team to get the work done. But as federal stimulus money came through to make thousands more low-income homes energy-efficient in King County, his Federal Way, Washington company, Advanced Energy Management LLC’s team of seven tripled in size to 24 employees.
It’s the quintessential green collar jobs win-win scenario. The stimulus package has a significant energy-efficiency component, including $5 billion in weatherization assistance from the Department of Energy for low-income households. Right here in our backyard, those stimulus dollars are putting unemployed workers into good jobs doing important work. Not only will efficiency upgrades cut emissions, they’ll also cut costs for the folks that live in those homes—and put money into the local economy.
As Deirdre Gregg of the Puget Sound Business Journal puts it, this experience is one example of how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is already starting to ripple out into the broader economy.
From the Puget Sound Business Journal (my emphasis):
That money is meant to provide several benefits, said Mike Nesteroff, who chairs the sustainability and climate change team at Seattle-based law firm Lane Powell PC. It should generate jobs for the contractors who do the work, reduce utility bills for residents so they’ll have more disposable income to spend elsewhere, and help cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for fossil-burning power plants.
The King County Housing Authority, which runs the largest weatherization program in the state, expects to get roughly $11 million for weatherization over the next two years, about four times its existing weatherization budget. With stimulus and existing funding combined, Campbell estimates that the housing authority may be able to completely weatherize up to 3,000 housing units, and do some low-cost efficiency upgrades on as many as 10,000 units.
And these are jobs that pay well. Kim’s green collar electricians make $30 an hour. No wonder over 200 qualified applicants responded to Kim’s Craig’s List add within days. There’s a ready workforce and there’s plenty of green collar work. It’s a public investment—like the stimulus—that puts the two together and benefits everybody—the economy, the atmosphere, our communities, our neighbors.