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Green could mean 'go' for creating jobs in St. Petersburg

With the Tampa Bay Green Living Expo under way this weekend, it seems fair to ask this question: Where are all those green jobs we've been hearing about?

In its sixth year, the Green Expo, which is going on today at the Coliseum, has been growing in popularity as residents become more aware of how energy efficiency can save money and help the environment.

But, again, how does that translate into jobs?

Well, there is one training program that began in March with a goal of training 400 people in the next three years.

WorkNet Pinellas received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to establish and expand training for workers who make homes and offices in Florida more energy efficient. The weatherization program, now under way at Pinellas Technical Education Centers, will train installers, auditors and field monitors.

"We're looking to affect the green economy in Pinellas County and at the state level," said James Robinson, weatherization coordinator at WorkNet Pinellas.

Through a partnership with PTEC and the Urban League, the program will offer training that should lead to the creation of local jobs. The state plan includes a goal to weatherize 19,000 homes by 2012. That will create quite a few jobs.

The first round of training — for installers — takes about two weeks and includes a certificate of completion, Robinson said. Training for auditors and field monitors is more intensive, and until PTEC gets accredited by the Building Performance Institute of the Department of Energy, the trainees for field monitor will not be certified. But there are opportunities out there.

There's also potential for other green opportunities, but city officials are mum on the specifics.

The buzz about town is that the city is in talks with a German solar panel manufacturer.

"There are so many companies talking about coming here, but as far as specifics, I can't confirm or deny anything," said David Goodwin, the city's director of planning and economic development. "Some companies have confidentiality clauses that prevent me from speaking.

"We would be excited about putting a company like that in the Dome Industrial District," Goodwin said. "If it's high-end jobs that require a Ph.D., that may not be a good fit for us. We're looking for companies that will offer jobs that the community can have access to."

In addition, there's a lot going on in the city related to the green economy.

Several projects are in the works that could lead to green jobs, said Steve Plice, president of Tampa Bay Living Green Inc., a nonprofit that sponsors the Tampa Bay Green Living Expo. Among them:

• Suncoast Electric Cars, an electric car dealership, just opened at 2401 Fourth St. N with four employees.

• Luma Stream, an LED manufacturer, opened at 2245 Fourth Ave. S in the Dome Industrial District about a year ago and is growing 100 percent annually. The company employs 11 people but is about to embark on a large project and will need more staff, said its president, Steve Crimi.

• Johnson Controls, at 1101 Fourth St. S, is adding staff locally, helping companies and governments do energy efficiency projects.

• St. Petersburg is accepting bids for 25 solar hot water projects on city buildings.

• The city is helping 27 nonprofits finance energy efficiency upgrades to their buildings.

• The Urban League has tripled its weatherization contracting and is now doing multifamily projects.

• Several renewable energy manufacturers are considering opening operations in St. Petersburg. One has signed a nondisclosure agreement with the city.

• Tampa Bay Water, the regional water supply authority for three counties, is about to finish a plan to make its facilities more efficient. Its current power bill is $19 million. Retrofits to many well fields will generate jobs.

Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8874.

Green could mean 'go' for creating jobs in St. Petersburg 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 4:31am]

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