Green Movement Offers Potential for City’s Workforce

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Going green isnt so much a change in color as it is a change in philosophy recycling, weatherizing, pursuing energy efficiency and one that could lead to critical job growth in Alexandria.

With the federal government doling out more and more money for research, implementation and tax credits related to greener energy production and home improvement, the emerging green workforce could become the go-to destination for Alexandrias unemployed or those looking to switch careers.

What we are hoping is that green businesses will take off, such as companies that do weatherization for homes and buildings, which President Obama has talked about as a factor in the stimulus, said Jan Schrader of Alexandria JobLink.

JobLink, with the support of the Alexandria Commission on Employment, is working on rolling out a set of programs to prepare its clients for these sorts of green jobs, according to ACE member Martin Kormanik.

ACE, which deals with systemic and macro-level employment issues in the city, sees the need to cultivate a green workforce as one of the top priorities for Alexandria, Kormanik said.

There is this whole new sector emerging out of this whole movement to go green, Kormanik said, citing the pursuit of constructing new buildings to LEED certification and improving homes to make them more energy efficient.

Given how the economy has moved over the last year, the potential for these jobs could not be coming at a better time.

As of January 2009, Alexandrias unemployment rate stood at 4.3 percent, markedly lower than the national unemployment rate (8.5 percent) and slightly lower than unemployment levels in the D.C. Metro Area (5.5 percent) and Virginia as a whole (6.4 percent), according to a report from the Virginia Employment Commission.

Just 12 months before, in January 2008, unemployment in Alexandria was just 2.7 percent and had not gone above the 4 percent threshold in more than 10 years, according to the same report.

Alexandria is a funny place, Schrader said. It doesnt really have a lot of manufacturing so it doesnt rely on that like other parts of the country Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, even in southern

Virginia where there are lots of textile factories and have been significant layoffs.

So while this gives credence to the idea that the D.C. region generally fares better than the nation as a whole during rough times, there are still many more people still looking for work now than at this time last year and it seems as if almost any job will do for the time being, according to JobLinks activity in recent months.

Sometimes people are coming in and just looking for a job, so were not necessarily seeing folks who are adamant about a specific type of employment here, Schrader said, adding that the most growth is likely to occur in businesses related to the green movement.

We also need to have businesses that are interested in going into the field, whether its people that are currently in small business maintenance or if its people that want to start their own businesses and enter this arena, Kormanik said.

As new green building techniques develop, the need to learn is as much of a prerequisite as having the right skill set and mentality.

Its an ongoing process, its not like youre going to come in and say OK, were going to do green things, said Bill Rohrer of Cub Run Builders. Its something you do everyday.

Cub Run, a general contractor that specializes in green building, says that it is one of the places people in Alexandria look to for green building and forward-thinking construction.

Weve gotten a reputation as being open to new ideas and techniques, and willing to incorporate new things that are compatible with our basic philosophies that arent unduly costly for the benefit you get out of them, Rohrer said. We want to be on the leading edge and push the envelope not only for our clients, but also to show other people that we can all be doing this.

Rohrer said that overall, there has been increasing interest in green building techniques over the last year. With the governments new 30 percent tax credits for different home improvements targeted at energy efficiency over the next few years, according to energystar.gov, its very likely that the green movement will continue.

For Rohrer and his employees, green building is the philosophy that guides the tangible tasks that are constantly happening on a job site. His workers need to have an attention to detail and a desire to learn new methods, in addition to being honest and reliable.

Other than training workers in the general concepts of what it means to be green dont waste materials, dont throw away that cut-off piece of 2×4 because you could use it somewhere else youve got to rely on guys being on board with the system, to take what youve taught them and apply it in every situation, Rohrer said.

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