How green jobs are taking root in Cincinnati

The Green movement has widely been viewed among top global economists as well United Nations leaders as a necessary route to creating millions of jobs, reviving the world economy, slashing poverty and averting environmental disaster. Locally, an opportunity area exists to lead national and global initiatives that would create thousands of good-paying jobs across Greater Cincinnati, while simultaneously reviving the region’s entrepreneurial spirit.

For instance, a widely quoted – if overly optimistic – report from the Center for American Progress’ “Green Economic Recovery Program: Impact on Ohio” estimates Ohio could create a net increase of up to 80,360 jobs with a $3.7 billion public/private investment over two years. The progressive Washington D.C. think tank says a national investment of $100 billion over two years could create 2 million Green jobs across the country.

Many of these new jobs would be in building, energy and infrastructure creation, and could employ a wide array of blue collar and professional workers, including electricians, truck drivers, computer software engineers, chemists, dispatchers and building inspectors. That’s good news for Ohio, a state built on manufacturing and building.

“The vast majority of jobs created through a green economic recovery program are in the same areas of employment that people already work in today,” the report states. “Constructing wind farms, for example, creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers… Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting requires roofers, insulators and building inspectors.”

President-elect Barack Obama has proposed spending $150 million over 10 years, so the Green job picture remains blurry, and there’s no firm numbers on how many new jobs Greater Cincinnati could expect. Still, many private and public organizations believe the region’s future economic growth depends on growing these environmentally conscious jobs. And some local individuals are setting themselves apart now with a green-focused business.

The Global Center of Cincinnati is hosting its International Education Summit with an eye on training a skilled workforce for the jobs of a changing economy. Hundreds of students from Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana high schools recently attended a summit titled “Emerging Careers in Global Sustainability” in November at Northern Kentucky University.

“The purpose of the summit was to recognize the economic shift to environmental sustainability and to green careers. We will have people in these careers come and talk to the kids about what they do,” says Emily Wullenweber, the center’s program coordinator.

The summit’s breakout panels provided a glimpse into what it’s about: “Reduce, Reuse, Recyle,” “Green Building,” and “Renewable Energy.” Through that and other programs, students will learn about the type of green jobs available, as well as the skills and education needed to get them.

They got to hear from business, government and civic leaders, and also had a chance to speak to people in green careers in small groups, in a “speed networking” session Wullenweber says.
“We thought it was important to get representatives from all sectors,” she says.

For some in Greater Cincinnati’s job market, the future is now. Local entrepreneurs’ work already has a  Green tinge to it.

Jami Stutzman and Libby Hunter are Sibcy Cline Realtors who’ve started Environmentally Conscious Real Estate of Cincinnati, or ENCORE for short. ENCORE specializes in green real estate and building practices.

“Our main business is the resale of already built houses. We talk to (new homeowners) about their insulation; older houses usually have no insulation in walls, the attic or basement. That’s where they’re losing the majority of their heat. If they’re interested, we suggest an energy audit where different providers go with you and show you where the leaks are in the house” Stuzman says.

Although up-front green building or renovation expenses can be more costly, in the long run homeowners benefit from the energy savings and enjoy better indoor air quality, which are attractive to them, Hunter says.

“You see this more in commercial and industrial side of things, too. That’s the way it’s going. On the residential side, it’s only going to be on the rise. People are becoming more aware of (how green practices are) affecting their bottom line, and they enjoy superior indoor air quality,” Hunter says.

Hunter says that there has been an increasing request for their services as environmental awareness has increased, an indicator of things to come.

“We’re getting a reaction from people who never had an interested in green, people who before thought it was just for hippies or vegetarians,” she says, with a laugh.

Chris Wiedeman, owner of UtiliKris, is a downtown Cincinnati handyman, who has made green building a part of his business. Wiedman, who says he’s fully insured, works on a variety of home and business repairs, and small renovations and additions.

“One of things I do is seal up houses, tighten up windows and doors, gaps and holes to increase energy efficiency,” he said.

His entire business isn’t green, but people are expressing more interest in those techniques, he said.

“I try to offer people green ideas and reuse ideas, but not everybody wants to. So I take standard construction too,” he said.

But the Green side of his business continues to grow, about 40 percent of his work is dependent on it.

“It’s becoming more and more popular,” he says.

Other Cincinnati entrepreneurs who see a potential new industry taking off in our area include Brianne Fahey and Suzanne Hanners who help spread the word about green living in Cincinnati as well as a local listing of jobs currently available on their Live Green Cincinnati job board.

Photography by Scott Beseler
City Roots, Gateway Quarter, OTR
Solar panels, UC main campus
Jami Stutzman and Libby Hunter, provided by Jami Stutzman
"Utili Kris" Chris Wiedeman, wife Nikki and of course, Metro the canine

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