California’s Imperial County has historically been one of the state’s most economically distressed regions, suffering from decades of underinvestment, unemployment and poverty. And the Great Recession has only added to the desert county’s woes, with unemployment running near 30 percent – a number not seen since the 1930s.
But with a third of the state’s energy supply required to come from green sources by 2020, labor, community and business leaders are hoping that the sun-drenched county– situated between San Diego County to the west and Mexico to the south – can become the Golden State’s leading center for alternative energy and good-paying green jobs.
Craig Rose of the San Diego Reader writes in a recent story about the growth of green energy in Imperial County:
The development of clean renewable energy in Imperial County could be an economic restart, providing an opportunity to alleviate the crushing joblessness and support county services for needy citizens.
The Federal Bureau of Land Management and the County Planning Department has received applications for thousands of megawatts of renewable energy projects including solar, wind and geothermal plants. This means new organizing opportunities and thousands of potential man hours for San Diego Local 569.
San Diego Local 569 Environmental Organizer Micah Mitrosky:
We are committed to making sure these new green jobs are IBEW jobs. To accomplish that goal, we have stepped up our organizing efforts, opened a new training facility in Imperial County and are partnering with community allies, environmental organizations and elected leaders.
And Local 569 says it wants to help make sure that the bulk of Imperial County’s new renewable energy jobs put local residents to work.
By next year, we believe we are really going to see work take off in the Imperial Valley. Our priority is to put county residents to work on these projects and to grow our local, skilled IBEW workforce in the Imperial Valley.
Local 569 opened the first union apprentice training facility in Imperial County last year. With its emphasis on green technology, the Imperial County Electric Training Center is expected to graduate its first class next spring.
In an interview with TV station KYMA Imperial County Organizer Danny Machain says:
We want to train the people who live here to get the good jobs we can provide.
Local 569 has also entered into a partnership with Imperial High School to introduce vocational students to green technology. The sheet metal workers local is also involved.
We want to get students ready for the growing green economy here in Imperial County and show them that union apprenticeship is the best pathway into a middle-class career in these new clean energy industries.
Click here to watch KYMA’s report on Local 569’s Imperial County training facility.