By Lauren Coffey – TBBJ & Inno Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal
Nov 25, 2020, 1:58pm EST
The University of South Florida and the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa have come together to build a job creation program, thanks to a grant from one national organization.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently gave the entities a $200,000 grant to fund the program. It will be a five-week, environmental-focused course for 60 individuals in the city. While the program is open to any Tampa resident, there is a specific focus on East Tampa.
"East Tampa has been burdened by pollution for a long time so this will help with some environmental justice issues as well," said Christian Wells, director of the USF Center for Brownfields Research and Redevelopment. "This is one of the largest community redevelopment areas and it's allowing the city to invest in projects that help further development."
According to Ernest Coney, CEO of the CDC, this is the third time the program has occurred and this year it has more interest than anticipated. Both Wells and Coney believe is largely due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shifts to the job market.
"The interest has been growing year-over-year, but because of Covid, the construction trade has become the fastest-growing job, whereas before it was more manufacturing focused," Coney said. "Right now, the redevelopment of our urban cores, our downtown, those are the ones that see a lot of activity and have brownfield issues as well."
The course will span five weeks, giving participants a dozen different certifications that ultimately can be put toward cleaning up the neighborhood's brownfield land, which is previously developed land that is no longer in use.
"Brownfields are contaminated in some way because of previous land use, so the EPA provides a lot of resources to clean them up and make them for business investments," Wells said. "This allows us to train local residents in cleaning up sites and they can get jobs locally and clean up their own neighborhoods."
While jobs are not guaranteed after the program, a number of business partners have agreed to help the participants and some have offered job interviews immediately after the program is complete.
"The EPA came down to do a press release with us because they're so excited about the results we've had with the last couple of grants, that we helped create opportunities that they're not seeing across the nation," Coney said. "And it's because of the partnerships we have. We have the employers, USF to bring the educational component and the CDC of Tampa being able to recruit."
The program will be free to participants, who will be recruited by the CDC and begin the program in February 2021.
"We went to a training last year and got to hear from other graduates of the program from across the nation, it really just melts your heart," Wells said. "It inspires you to hear how this program changes lives and that's what this program is for us: it's about changing people's lives."