This article was written by Rachel Witt, Executive Director of the South Grand Community Improvement District. Read all the articles in Rachel’s Lessons & Partnerships in Community & Economic Development series.
Many ways exist to address poverty, unemployment, and social equity. The green collar industry made up of recycling, landscaping, food production, and energy production with wind and solar can be a solution because those industries need both skilled and unskilled employees. Many opportunities are available for skilled workers: energy, green building, and mechanics. But there are also multiple green-collar jobs where no previous skills are needed, such as recycling, landscaping, and food production. These jobs are key to building a sound community. In fact, today’s manual labor workforce can improve overall environmental health through the partnership of green-collar jobs. Such partnerships, with small business startups, nonprofit assistance in job training, and local governments’ zoning regulations and tax incentives will in turn make communities stronger and more economically sound.
Many small business startups are happening nationwide in this industry from landscaping companies specializing in native plants, stormwater management, restoration of prairies, to the creation of food production and solar installation and maintenance.
These small business startups can pay well, offering health insurance, retirement, training, and incentives for higher education coursework. Providing well-paying jobs translates into economic growth. For instance, communities that saw no growth now can be a catalyst to bring additional jobs to the area such as healthcare, education, and can foster the rebirth of main streets. Lastly, skilled green-collar jobs can be a catalyst to build population density. Building population density is a game-changer for struggling under-employed communities.
Many nonprofits are seeing the need for these green jobs and are stepping up to assist with job training. Grants are available to train the local workforce on solar and wind installation. In the coming years, it will be exciting to see the evolution of these alternatives and what will be next for the industry.
Local governments are the key to encourage the growth of these emerging jobs through incentives, proper planning, and zoning. Also, it is key for local governments to set benchmarks and regulations to encourage sustainable practices. Creating an economic sustainability plan will encourage developers and entrepreneurs to invest in the community, adding more job opportunities and housing options. Local governments can help underserved communities by making green-collar jobs a priority, which in turn makes their community more desirable and prosperous for all.
Plus, green-collar jobs can help increase revenue to local governments while creating a brand and identity that provides pride and hope to communities. Green collar jobs can be a catalyst for job growth that brings needed taxes to struggling local governments. This public-private partnership of local governments, nonprofits, and small business startups is the key to success to elevate and encourage the development of green-collar jobs.
Many under-employed communities that once prospered with blue-collar jobs are now struggling with abandoned industrial properties and bleak and desolate main streets. These once-thriving communities can be brought back to life through green-collar jobs. Green collar jobs can bring happiness to the workforce that helps the environment and makes the quality of life better for others. It builds morale, and longevity in the work of the future. When an industry can bring hope and enjoyment, the effects trickle down into the community. Beautification projects take shape, residential and commercial buildings are repaired, and investment brings community prosperity, making communities stronger and more economically sound.
Rachel Witt is the Executive Director of the South Grand Community Improvement District. Graduate from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography, minor in Sociology and certification in Nonprofit Management. Master’s in public administration from Widener University emphasis in local government and economic development. Connect with Rachel on Linkedin or Email.
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