Public investment helps private business


Published Jun 2, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

I have been in business as a residential contractor for seven years. I started my business with the specific focus on Home Performance. Three years ago we were growing, but the market seemed to have a ceiling. Homeowners wanted to upgrade their houses, but were hesitant to use up all their limited cash to invest in a remodel. And banks weren’t lending. The Home Performance industry was capped. Lucky for my company, Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO) started petitioning banks to lend to this sector.

Today, we continue our growth trajectory in part because of our partnership with CEWO.

CEWO is a nonprofit focused on making it easy for Oregon residents to make comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades to their homes. CEWO does this by connecting homeowners to local lenders for low-cost financing, to local utilities for cash incentives and to certified energy efficiency contractors like us to do the work. The CEWO model is a win for homeowners and the economy.

Working with CEWO, we have been able to help 47 homeowners here in Bend, make their homes more comfortable, less expensive to run and more efficient. We’ve done everything from sealing air and duct leaks, to installing insulation to replacing aging, ineffective and sometimes highly-unsafe equipment like old furnaces and hot water systems. We even replace old windows with new ones.

What this has meant for my business is sales growth and the need to bring on more skilled workers. Specifically, I have hired three individuals locally and currently have two openings I am working to fill. GreenSavers provides steady work for previous unemployed local residents, full healthcare benefits and a chance to make a difference in our community and for homeowners. Because you are improving the community, this is a rewarding occupation. We have many interested applicants who are changing careers and would like an opportunity in this industry.

None of this would be possible without public investment. In fact through effective public-private partnership, CEWO has helped thousands of Oregonians make their houses more comfortable while reducing wasteful energy expenses and improving the value of their largest asset, their home. And equally as important, CEWO has helped more than 1,000 workers receive a paycheck and 300 new workers build a promising construction career. As a small business owner and an employer, I know how important that is.

The public funds that first helped seed this effort came from the U.S. Department of Energy. Those funds successfully unlocked millions of dollars of private capital now being circulated in the local economy. Private lenders like Umpqua Bank are now helping finance energy remodels in communities throughout our state. All those remodels mean a stronger job market for construction professionals.

Now the State of Oregon has the opportunity to expand this job creation machine. After all, there are 600,000 homes throughout Oregon in need of an energy upgrade. That represents the potential for 60,000 jobs and $8 billion in economic development. I am encouraging my legislators to make smart decisions in this time of tight budgets and continued economic challenges. Now, more than ever, we need to fund efforts like Clean Energy Works Oregon that have a proven track record of creating jobs, growing businesses and increasing private investment.