Going green gets $200,000 boost

The Workforce Investment Board of Herkimer, Madison and Oneida Counties will receive a $200,000 Brownfields Job Training Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade the skills of local workers for environmental cleanup in Utica.

"Redeveloping brownfields is an important part of revitalizing our community," said U.S. Rep. Michael A. Arcuri, D-24, Utica. "It is equally important that as we rebuild our housing and infrastructure that we provide the people who live in and around our brownfields the chance to play a major role in restoring and renovating their neighborhoods." He worked with the board, the city and the county on the project "because it provides new jobs for the people of our community and new hope for the future of the City of Utica."

By recruiting, training and employing local residents to clean up the community, "we get the best of both worlds: new jobs and a cleaner community," said board Chair Gary Scalzo. "Transforming abandoned or contaminated sites sets the stage for bustling business centers, new parks and other developments. It shows that the right thing to do for the environment is the right thing to do for the economy."

Board Executive Director Alice J. Savino said the project will help give area residents both skills and certifications needed to address lead-contaminated structures within Utica’s inner city. "The funding we have secured will help the people who are looking for better jobs and a better community have both," she said. "We are excited about the potential of this project to bring new energy and opportunity to the historic parts of Utica’s heritage that have fallen on hard times, and to provide the skills that can connect youth and adults with careers in the green and environmental sectors."

The board plans to train 75 students, place 70 graduates in environmental jobs, and track graduates for one year. The training program will consist of nine 12-week training cycles that will include a core curriculum of 200 hours. Training will include health and safety training, lead and asbestos abatement, green technologies and fork lift operator training. Primary trainers will be the Mohawk Valley Community College and Oneida County Health Department. With the help of community partners, the program will recruit unemployed adults, low-income individuals working part-time, older youths, and ex-offenders living in the City of Utica. As the lead agency in the region’s One-Stop Career Center system, the board will use its services and employer contacts to place graduates in environmental jobs.

Savino said recruiting for the program will begin this fall.

The program helps train people for jobs in the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields properties, including abandoned gas stations, old textile mills, closed smelters, and other abandoned industrial and commercial properties. These investments target under-served and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods — places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed.