This week’s mixer of the Municipal Management Association of Southern California Inland Empire Chapter starts the first of several business to business workshops and professional development events geared toward an impending Green explosion that the nation hopes will eventually create more jobs.
In conjunction with the water district and the Frontier Project, the city of Fontana wants to provide various programs through the project to help the public and private sector get connected with education, jobs and contracts.
“Anybody that wants to be a member of MMASC can join our chapter,” said Kathleen Fariss, co-chair of the organization. “We have lots of organizations that are part of MMASC for professional development reasons, of people trying to further themselves and learn how to help their community.”
Members receive professional guidance and information on developing leadership skills, career growth, and can meet with a diverse group, she said.
The Frontier Project, a nonprofit foundation, will host numerous services and education around Green technology and resources for residents and businesses. The focal point is a new Frontier Project building to educate community about private and public sector partnerships, criteria for competitive energy funding, along with the potential jobs and contracts.
“We opened about five weeks ago, and we’ve had a few hundred visitors already on a regular basis,” said Kristine Ramirez, public affairs officer with the Frontier Project in Rancho Cucamonga.
Right now, she’s working on helping community and businesses connect on products and services, and get linked to whatever funding can be tapped.
“What we’re trying to do is make the connection with some of the federal Stimulus dollars that are available, as well as the financing that would be available for homeowners for home improvement,” Ramirez said.
Next year, the first of several Saturday workshops begins February 13 with banking panelists talking about Green financing and how to find funds for Green projects in homes. Then, she said the focus will be on going Green to get homes ready for resale on the market.
Part of the organization’s overall goal is to inform residents and local businesses about affordable ways to convert to Green technology, and help businesses get streamlined and network together, she said.
The Rancho Cucamonga Water District is the parent company of the Frontier Project, a new building to help educate residents and commercial builders on recent water and energy, and smart-grid technologies.
Funding is available, she said, and the community needs to know how to apply for those funds and seek them out.
“Right now, we’re trying to make that connection with the commercial, the business community, whether through partnerships with Edison, a local metering company that can help us get on the ball with smart grid technology and keep track of water use and electricity use. Trying to push these ideas forward and mainstream,” Ramirez said.
On the bread and butter side of the issue, longtime community advocate Frances Grice said that all the Green talk in the world doesn’t amount to much without contracts for minority contractors, training, education and jobs into communities of color.
Grice, president & CEO of ADF Networking Consultancy Inc., has a long history with minority business development into the private and public sector, and said the community has to keep sight of the bigger picture.
Budgets have increased tremendously under the Obama Administration, and million and millions of federal dollars are coming down, some geared toward Stimulus funding and technology.
But, Green dollars or not, federal dollars are still closely tied to affirmative action contracts under the Labor Board, which means that the process is mandated to be open and diversified.
Water is also under increased demand for newer technology, and districts everywhere are trying to expand capacity to keep up with the needs of the growing Inland Empire population.
Grice said the community should stay on the lookout for how that translates into more jobs and contracts for minority contractors, which seem few and far between in water-related projects.
“How many minority contractors are going to be hired?” she asks. “It’s time that we look at water districts. Water is one of the most precious commodities in the desert.”
Grice said that many larger agencies are self-insured, and have the capacity to keep their bonds low enough to get around some of the bonding requirements that have prevented African American contractors from competing.
She said more pressure needs to be applied to these agencies by the community to keep the process open.
“How does the technology relate to human beings at the neighborhood level?” she said. “We need to talk about technology as it relates to working, as it relates to being qualified, and as it relates to employment opportunities.”
For more information on upcoming meetings at the Frontier Project, see www.frontierproject.org
or for water district information, Eric Grubb at