Despite aggressive sowing by San Francisco in the green jobs field, the sprouting of such work is being hindered by federal politics, according to a new survey.
San Francisco has taken the lead in the green and clean industry, with programs like Go Solar. As of 2008, there were 11,352 green jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to UC Berkeley.
But green job growth has been crippled in the last year as financing programs and other green loan programs have been dropped or stalled at the federal level, including Property Assessment Clean Energy and the Home Star loan program that would provide rebates.
“There is a lot of excitement around green jobs because people have high hopes,” said Carrie Portis, executive director of SFWorks. “But we might have gotten ahead of ourselves a little bit.”
Green businesses said that their ability to hire was tied to whether or not consumers had access to financing and loans for green projects, according to the survey, which was conducted by SFWorks — a local organization that promotes green business.
This summer, the federal housing agency forced local jurisdictions like San Francisco to suspend cutting edge green financing program that would have created thousands of green jobs citywide and infused money into residential and commercial green building projects.
The suspension was a huge blow to green businesses such as Luminalt, a San Francisco solar installation company, which had to kill two solar water and heat installation projects that were being financed through The City’s Green Finance SF program.
“Jobs are not being created at the pace they otherwise would,” said Jeanine Cotter, the company’s CEO. “It’s slowed down the momentum.”
The survey showed, however, that green businesses are still optimistic about the future of the industry despite having a hard time creating the green jobs they had planned, in part because the demand for green products has hit a lull.
More than 60 Bay Area businesses participated in the survey where 70 percent of respondents said that a lack of consumer demand was the biggest obstacle to growing green jobs locally.
Roughly 40 percent said the lack of commercial demand was holding back their business growth while the lack of working capital was hindering about 30 percent, according to the survey.
Johanna Gregory Partin, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s director of climate protection initiatives, said what the industry really needs now is a thoughtful plan to fuel the green economy.
“We need a more comprehensive green jobs strategy, not this fits and starts we are seeing now,” she said.
Women lagging in clean technology hiring
By Kamala Kelkar
Examiner Staff Writer
A lack of child care may be a factor in keeping women out of “green” jobs.
A recent city-funded analysis found that the industrial work force comprises almost exclusively men and they worked about 96 percent of major city-backed industry projects.
The report shows the employment market and the classes that lead to jobs in areas such as photovoltaic cell and solar water installations and wind power are attracting mostly men.
Veronica Hunnicutt heads City College of San Francisco’s Sustainability Subcommittee, which is starting to target women with the college’s outreach for its green job programs because there are so few females in the classroom.
“Women need to apply for these green job training opportunities so they can climb and grow with these companies,” said Hunnicutt, who used to be the dean of City College’s Bayview campus. “We need women with expertise in entrepreneurial positions.”
It’s a slippery slope that is perpetuating the old glass-ceiling cliché, she said.
Jeanine Cotter, chief executive of the solar installation company Luminalt, said it’s most obvious when she attends solar technology meetings.
“There are open stalls in the women’s bathroom, and a line out of the men’s bathroom,” Cotter said. “I cannot think of a time when I’ve ever seen that. Not even at sporting events.”
Cotter said outreach is vital at a time when the “green” industry is carving its niche because, “We as women can be a vibrant part of the development of alternative energy and solutions of some of our planet’s most daunting problems.”
A report by nonprofits Brightline Defense Project and Chinese for Affirmative Action highlights The City’s failure to hire residents and has city officials questioning whether local hiring should be mandated.
“But we cannot legally say, ‘You must hire women,”’ said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce. “It’s right at the center of the local hiring debate.”
San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Michael Theriault, who is involved with a city task force that’s exploring ways to boost the local work force through labor agreements, had a suggestion.
“I would say the most clearly identifiable factor, the one that’s easiest to put of finger on, is the lack of child care during construction hours,” Theriault said. “The greener part of construction, the electricians, the carpenters, the laborers, has a lot of women in the trade, but nowhere near 50 percent.”