In a Difficult Economy, More People Are Focusing on Creating Green Jobs For Young Black Men

Lack of job opportunities for young black men is a serious problem. But so is an inability for small businesses and nonprofits to find the money to retrofit and green their operations, along with the urgent need to slash CO2 emissions.

PopTech Fellows, 2013
Donnel Baird's fledgling New York City-based startup BlocPower aims to do something about all of those problems. "We're targeting jobs, carbon emission reduction and financial returns," he says. "It's complex."

Or, quite ambitious would be another way to describe the mission.

Baird officially incorporated his company about a year ago, while he was still a student at Columbia University's Columbia Business School, where he worked through the business model with the help of professors. The idea is to help under-served small businesses, churches and the like to have energy audits aimed at increasing energy efficiency, installing solar power and, ultimately cutting energy costs by 15-20%, while reducing carbon emissions.

The important word here is under-served.  Enterprises with less than 50,000 square feet even in middle-class neighborhoods have difficulty getting access to capital for energy retrofits, according to Baird, because they 're too small potatoes for banks and solar companies. He helps arrange financing, connecting these businesses and organizations to impact investors. He's also building an online platform  listing projects investors can help finance through debt notes.

That's only part of it. The other mission is to create jobs locally. To that end, Baird partners with sub-contractors conducting audits and doing solar power installation and other construction, but only if they hire low-income people to do the work. He's been teaming up with Green City Force, a Brooklyn organization which trains young residents of public housing to do energy efficiency evaluations and retrofitting.

"That's our end of the deal, to make sure there are individuals with the right training," he says. "The problem really isn't providing the training. The problem is there are no jobs."

In March, Baird did a pilot, conducting energy audits for several small businesses in Harlem. Now he's starting to audit 15 or so properties-six Catholic Schools in the South Bronx, as well as an Orthodox Jewish campus in Far Rockaway and a church and community center on Staten Island that were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy last year. That should employ six or seven people. "We're starting small," he says. But over the next 18 months, Baird hopes to increase that to 40 or 50.

Source: Forbes | Anne Field
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