Green Businesses Growing in Bridgeport: What do discarded mattresses have to do with creating jobs and supporting the local economy?
Park City Green mattress deconstruction and recycling enterprise
In Bridgeport a new green business recently opened, Park City Green. It is a mattress deconstruction and materials recycling enterprise. It takes in mattresses that would ordinarily go to landfills or incinerators, takes them apart, and recycles the component parts (foam, cotton, metal springs and wood). This saves the environment AND saves money in disposal fees to hard-pressed municipalities, health care facilities, universities and colleges, and others.
Park City Green also creates jobs in a city struggling with high unemployment and poverty. The jobs created are for ex-offenders and low-income unemployed residents of the surrounding poor neighborhood. The plant is adjacent to a public housing project from which it draws some of its workers. This new green business enterprise just opened in July 2012. Once it reaches full capacity, it will handle 100,000 mattresses a year and employ 20-25 low-income unemployed residents.
Can green jobs provide a pathway out of poverty?
Park City Green is the second green small business developed by Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises. The first is the Green Team, a contracting enterprise that provides weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades as well as asbestos and lead removal. The Green Team, like Park City Green, employs disadvantaged low-income unemployed residents. Green Team workers have provided window replacements for municipal buildings and weatherization for more than 150 residential and multi-family units in Bridgeport and Norwalk. They have removed lead and asbestos from more than 60 homes, churches and childcare centers in the region.
This is the mission and passion of Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises (GBCE), a community development corporation in Bridgeport, CT. It creates jobs in the growing green economy by developing new green business enterprises so that low and moderate income families can achieve economic self-sufficiency while creating more sustainable communities.
GBCE focuses on low-tech, labor-intensive sectors of the green economy to maximize the number of jobs that can be created for its target population of low-income unemployed residents, ex-offenders, returning veterans, mothers on welfare, non-custodial fathers, residents of public housing, those with low educational attainment, those with little or no work history, the long-term unemployed, and at-risk unemployed older youth ages 18-24.
To prepare them for their jobs, GBCE offers 6-8 week job training programs that include both work readiness training and job skills training in the areas of weatherization/energy efficiency upgrades, environmental/brownfields remediation, and deconstruction/materials recycling. Additionally, it provides counseling and case management to help participants overcome barriers to work and ensure their success in their new jobs.
What is next for GBCE?
Its next goal is create 100 new green jobs over the next five years by developing three new green business enterprises and expanding its current two green businesses.
To do this, GBCE will establish a Green Business Hub to provide expertise and services to help its current and future green businesses grow and succeed. GBCE will move its central office, job training program and Green Team to space adjacent to Park City Green, centralizing all operations in one campus which is large enough to house GBCE’s next 2-3 new green businesses. These will all be located in Bridgeport’s new Eco-Industrial Park, a burgeoning center for green businesses in the state’s largest city.
The Green Team, Park City Green and GBCE’s upcoming green enterprises will turn to the Hub for: meeting and conference rooms; office equipment; administrative services; budgeting and accounting services; IT, HR and legal services; worker training; professional development and mentoring for the operations director of each green business; marketing and PR expertise; identification of emerging markets, trends and new market opportunities; and its new business R&D.
All green businesses developed by GBCE will exemplify the “triple bottom line” of environmental sustainability, social good in training and hiring disadvantaged populations, and promoting economic development and job creation through new business development.
What will be the impact of 100 new jobs in the City of Bridgeport?
During the five-year development and start-up period, the newly employed workers will earn $4.3 million to support their families. More than $2 million of that will be invested in their local struggling neighborhood economies.
And after the five-year period, at least $2.5 million annually will be earned by the new workers enabling them to support their families, with a local investment of $1.2 million annually.
In the words of GBCE’s job training graduates and workers:
Rock: I knew I was a good worker but no one would give me a chance. Then I discovered GBCE and Park City Green. Now I’m earning a living for my family and helping my community at the same time.
Mo: I was discouraged and had lost all hope. GBCE and the Green Team gave me training and a job that restored my hope. Now I'm working at a meaningful job with a future.
Nejire: Thank you Green Team for giving me a chance at a better life for me and my daughter. Make sure you keep helping people because you really helped me.
GBCE welcomes volunteers. Please contact Adrienne Houël, President & CEO for current volunteer opportunities. GBCE always welcomes donations to support its work including its new initiative, the Green Business Hub which is the foundation for its five-year plan to create 100 new green jobs by developing three new green businesses. Visit greenteambpt.com to learn more.