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Oregonians Share Advice at "Good, Green Jobs" Conference

March 15, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregonians are taking center stage today at the "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" regional conference in Los Angeles.

Panelists at the two-day event are sharing information about programs launched in Oregon and other western states to create and support jobs in construction, transit, farming, recycling and other fields where conservation and energy efficiency have become priorities.

Barbara Byrd, Oregon AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, says Oregon already is considered a leader in this area.

"The commitment of folks in our state Legislature, and also at the city level, is huge. I think that Oregon's reputation as a green state is well deserved, because we really have put a lot of effort into figuring out the policy fixes and the financing that's necessary to make these programs work."

The Oregon Employment Department's latest survey says green jobs pay more per hour than the average wage in the state, although it also found most employers aren't predicting growth for these kinds of jobs this year. Byrd says those attending the conference hope to come back with new ideas to change that.

About one-fourth of the state's "green" jobs are in construction, according to Employment Department estimates. Kelly Haines, a workforce specialist at Clean Energy Works Oregon, says that's why her organization is reaching out to match women, veterans and people of color with training and jobs in fields they might not otherwise have considered.

"We have a very focused effort on the type of job creation that's coming out of this program. We think of ourselves as what's called a 'triple bottom-line organization' - financial, environmental and social."

Haines says a big part of the green-jobs push is to make sure they come with benefits and wages that can support a family.

Clean Energy Works Oregon is what Haines calls a "one-stop shop" for Oregonians to get home-energy assessments and upgrades. One of the challenges in many states, she says, has been getting banks on board.

"In order to create demand, there has to be available financing for homeowners, and that's been a huge barrier. Essentially, how do you open up the lending community to this, making it as common as a car loan, getting a home energy remodel?"

The conference includes 40 workshops and panels, and runs through Friday. More information, including a conference agenda, is online at greenjobsconference.org.

The Employment Department survey results are at qualityinfo.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR