Written by Alvaro Sanchez Sanchez
Senior Associate, Green For All
In our recent report, Staying Green and Growing Jobs: Green Infrastructure Operations and Maintenance as Career Pathway Stepping Stones, we profile seven organizations that are linking members from disadvantaged communities to opportunities in the green sector. These groups are diverse with respect to the populations they serve, the skills they teach, and the types of work they perform, but all of them recognize that green infrastructure has the potential to transform communities.
Based on interviews with social enterprises and workforce development organizations throughout the country, we identified twelve components that make their programs successful. To better describe these components, we created an infographic, below, highlighting the best features of each organization and providing details about the types of work they are involved in. Over the coming weeks we’ll profile innovative organizations that are advancing best practices in green infrastructure, here. This week, we profile the Portland-based organization, Verde.
Since 2005, Verde has brought new environmental investments to Portland’s neighborhoods, involved community members in the planning and building of these investments, and ensured that low-income communities and people of color directly benefit from the investments.
Verde trains and employs a workforce capable of installing and maintaining systems to manage stormwater. The company’s crews are trained in performing construction, restoration, and cultivation services. Verde also offers landscape labor to general contractors and landscape subcontractors, with a focus on contractors subject to the City of Portland’s Workforce Training & Hiring Program. Verde is certified as a Section 3 business, a designation that supports job training, employment, and contracting opportunities for low-income people on local projects.
Verde has secured several contracts to perform green infrastructure work in Portland and employs six full-time and six part-time landscapers. However, Verde’s staff have expressed concern that the company cannot compete with the low prices their competitors offer. Verde was recently outbid to perform services they had been contracted to perform for the past five years, because a competitor was able to offer a very low rate for the same services. “Low-road” contractors who don’t focus on hiring local and disadvantaged workers can have a pricing advantage on non-prevailing wage projects. This sometimes challenges Verde’s ability to compete for projects. When a project requires prevailing wages, or includes social goals such as workforce diversity or training, Verde Landscape has had success competing against low-road contractors.
In 2012, Verde established a Training Liaison position to support crew member training and transitions to post-Verde opportunities. Crew members work with the Training Liaison to develop and implement an Individual Learning Plan that sets their training goals and participation in up to 80 hours of paid training per year. Verde’s long-term goal is that each landscape crew member receives resources and support for success as a small business owner, as an employee at a for-profit business with opportunities for wage and career growth, or as the experienced crew leader who supervises and trains future landscape crew members.
Verde is one of a number of programs that are delivering the triple bottom line benefits that green infrastructure investments promise. Verde’s work demonstrates successful private/ public/ nonprofit partnerships that protect the environment, increase access to economic opportunities, and improve the social conditions of disadvantaged groups. The company is cultivating a new generation of environmental stewards that come from communities most impacted by environmental and economic crises. These programs use operations and maintenance work to create on-ramps to career opportunities in a variety of professions. They also perform a critical task that creates real opportunity rather than dead-end, low-quality employment Come back next week to learn about an organization located in New York’s South Bronx that helped to turn a blighted property into a thriving urban park while educating youth about the environment.