Have you ever come to a point in life when you realized that you needed to make a change? That’s what happened to Mark Davis. He was running a successful information company in Washington, D.C., when he started to think about the environment and the importance of clean energy. So in 2009, he started a new company dedicated to solar power: WDC Solar. He got into the clean energy industry because he felt it was the right thing to do.
The power of clean energy to help people became very clear in 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti. WDC Solar had been helping to develop and conduct solar job training with Potomac Job Corps and the ARCH training center in Washington, D.C., which provide job training and other career resources to residents of the Anacostia community. Following the Haiti earthquake, WDC Solar worked with ARCH trainees to put together “solar suitcases” with portable electrical systems that could be used to power orphanages, hospitals, and other critical facilities in the wake of the disaster.
Even more than that, Davis is proud that he’s been able to help community members find employment after completing their training programs.
Thanks to a grant from Health and Human Services and the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, WDC Solar is opening a solar manufacturing facility in the neighborhood. It will be the only African American-owned solar panel manufacturer in the nation, and will create 100-125 high quality jobs for local residents, who face one of the highest rates of unemployment in the area.
Davis recently won a contract from the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) and is currently opening a new office at the WDC Solar warehouse where they train workers to install solar panels on low-income family housing in D.C. Participants have already earned valuable experience—they’ve helped install solar panels on twenty homes in less than two months. They have also installed several systems on commercial buildings.
Training local workers is a big priority for Davis—and a big challenge. Obtaining funding for training programs is extremely difficult, so much so that he’s funded many training programs with his own money, training dozens of people over the years. He hopes to train many more residents of the community, which is predominantly African American.
“Without some type of federally-funded training, we’re going to be left behind,” he says. “Training is very expensive. We’re going to be left out and unemployed, and we’re going to have people who don’t look like us coming into our neighborhoods with these jobs. We’re going to be on the outside looking in and trying to figure out what happened.”
Davis continues to be a strong advocate for federal investments in job training programs, and hopes he can secure funding to train future program participants.