News for March, 2011
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
CHICAGO (March 16, 2011) – Energy efficiency work is helping to revitalize the job market for contractors in the Chicago region. The Energy Savers program, which is operated by CNT Energy and the Community Investment Corporation (CIC), has created more than 75 jobs over the past three years and is expected to generate an additional 165 jobs over the next two years. A larger, regional energy efficiency initiative could produce as many as 2,000 new jobs for workers in the Chicago region over the next three years.
Energy Savers focuses on reducing energy use in affordable multifamily buildings in the Chicago region. This reduces operating costs for building owners and helps to maintain affordable housing. With help from the Energy Savers program, building owners are finding that energy efficiency is a smart investment, even during an economic downturn.
The Energy Savers program has helped local building owners make energy efficiency improvements in more than 3,500 housing units, cutting energy costs by 30 percent on average. This saves the average building owner $10,000 per year. In the process, the program has created jobs for the contractors who implement the Energy Savers team’s energy efficiency recommendations. The program has created work for energy auditors, insulation specialists, heating contractors and others.
Mike Jasinski, owner of All Thermal Insulation in Park Ridge, has worked with the Energy Savers program for nearly a year. Building owners participating in the program have hired his company to do projects such as sealing ducts and insulating hot water tanks and pipes. He says the work that has come in through the Energy Savers program helped his company remain profitable and even grow.
“A significant part of our growth is tied to the CNT Energy Savers program,” says Jasinski. “In order to accommodate the work load we had to hire two people. We’ve been able to bring on manpower, and that allows us to pick up additional jobs over and beyond the CNT projects,” he says.
Adding two workers is a significant increase for a small business. With the addition of the two new workers, All Thermal Insulation now has eight employees.
“We brought people back into the workforce that really needed the work,” Jasinski says. “Clearly work in general is hard to come by, and these people had been in the construction and plumbing field for 20 years. We’ve got people with families to feed. As you look around the market, other people are certainly going to have similar stories to tell,” he says.
The Energy Savers team from CNT Energy evaluates each building and helps owners identify the most cost effective energy efficiency improvements. CIC offers low-cost financing options to cover the cost of the work. This approach makes it possible for building owners to invest in building upgrades that will pay off in lower electricity and gas bills.
Jasinski says his team enjoys working with the Energy Savers program because they can see that the program is having a positive impact on the community. The energy saving improvements reduce energy bills, help to preserve affordable housing, and make the apartments safer and more comfortable.
“Basically the work that we’re doing, we’re doing for people that really need this. So in addition to the new business, we feel like we’re doing something good for the community, because you really are making an impact,” says Jasinski.
Energy efficiency could continue to spur growth in the job market as the region moves forward with the Chicago Region Initiative for Better Buildings (CRIBB), a federally funded regional collaboration led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) in partnership with the City of Chicago Department of Environment, and with support from the City of Rockford and suburban and regional stakeholders. A team led by CNT Energy is coordinating the program on behalf of CMAP. CRIBB will focus on promoting energy efficiency improvements by ensuring that homeowners, building owners and businesses have access the necessary information, financing options, and trained workforce. This program is also expected to contribute to job creation in the region, generating an estimated 2,000 jobs over the next three years.
Energy Savers Open House May 3
Building owners and contractors and others are invited to learn more about the Energy Savers program at a free open house hosted by Villa Guadalupe Senior Apartments from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m., on Tuesday, May 3, 201. The event will take place at the Villa Guadalupe Senior Apartments, located at 3201 East 91st Street, Chicago, IL. For more information or to RSVP, contact Jeanine Otte at firstname.lastname@example.org or (773) 269-2222.
For more information about the Energy Savers program go to www.cntenergy.org/energysavers.
For more on the Chicago Region Initiative for Better Buildings, go to www.cmap.illinois.gov/energy.
For more information:
Stephanie Folk, CNT Energy
CNT Energy – a division of the Center for Neighborhood Technology
The CNT Energy is a non-profit organization helping consumers and communities manage energy usage and costs.
Center for Neighborhood Technology
Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works nationally in advancing urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on climate, energy, natural resources, transportation, and community development.
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
CNT staff have racked up frequent flyer miles in recent days as they share our research and initiatives to audiences from coast to coast.
Economic Development Planner Kyle Smith presented CNT’s BUILT In Ohio work to the Local Employment Dynamics (LED) Partnership Workshop in Arlington, VA on March 9.
The BUILT in Ohio project, completed in summer and fall 2010, brought together regional leaders in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati to assess strengths and weaknesses in regional growth patterns and identify infrastructure investments that could spark a more sustainable pattern of economic development. Using Locational Employment Dynamics (LED) data, CNT characterized how these three urban centers anchor the economy of the state. Read more »
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
CHICAGO (March 11, 2011) – Gas prices are rising again and putting the squeeze on families that may already be struggling with unemployment and making their mortgage or rent payments. The Wall Street Journal had a good article last week about what the current situation means for people on the ground in a suburb of Miami, Florida. Here in Chicago, gas prices have already reached $4/gallon in at least one location, and the national average for a gallon of gas has jumped 33 cents in the past two weeks.
What can Chicagoans do to protect themselves from getting hit hard by rising gas prices? The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) has a few suggestions:
1—Park your car and take public transportation using pre-tax transit benefits. Public transit is almost always more economical than driving, and transit obviously helps you avoid the impacts of rising gas prices altogether. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that Chicago commuters can save nearly $12,000 a year taking transit, assuming gas costs $3.47/gallon. Pre-tax transit benefits make transit even more affordable than it already is. The program allows people to purchase transit fares before their income is taxed, reducing the overall cut Uncle Sam takes from their paycheck.
The program is run through employers, so if your company doesn’t already offer a pre-tax transit benefit program, send your boss or HR person to this site: http://lesstaxingcommute.com. For a short time, Cook County employers can receive up to $1,700 by enrolling employees in the program.
2—Sign up for I-GO Car Sharing. Americans spend an annual average of $7,319 to own, operate, and maintain their cars, according to AAA. A typical I-GO member spends only about $2,520 per year on transportation. I-GO has more than 200 cars in 35 neighborhoods throughout the city and four suburbs that can get you where you need to go without worrying about gas prices. Members pay for cars by the hour (about $8.50), and gas is included in the hourly fee (as is insurance), so no need to worry about its price. Our cars are gas sippers, and later this year we’ll add 30+ electric cars to our fleet that don’t use gasoline at all. We have partnered with the city to offer joint CTA/I-GO smart cards to make transit and car sharing more convenient; one card does it all.
3—Moving soon? Use Abogo to find a new neighborhood with low transportation costs. Location matters when it comes to how much a household pays to get around. CNT’s Abogo – a mash up of “abode” and “to go”— calculates the average transportation costs of a given location. Type in an address and Abogo will reveal the area’s average cost of auto ownership, auto usage and transit use. A car-dependent, high transportation cost neighborhood will leave you vulnerable as gas prices continue to rise. A transit-rich, walkable neighborhood will have a lower average monthly cost and keep it that way as gas prices creep upward because residents don’t need cars to get to work and everywhere else.
To speak with CNT experts about ways to avoid the pain of rising gas prices, contact Emily Robinson at email@example.com or 773.269.4043.
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
Gas prices got you down? How about tax-free transit passes? CNT is administering the Transit Ridership Improvement Program (TRIP) for the Regional Transportation Authority and Cook County Department of Environmental Control, which provides up to $1,700 to Cook County businesses that enroll employees in a pre-tax transit benefit program. Commuters can save between 30 percent and 40 percent on their commuting costs by purchasing transit fares before taxes. The incentive program has $250,000 made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the limited funds will be disbursed to employers on a first come, first served basis. Read more »
Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
New program offers incentives as gas prices continue to soar
CHICAGO (March 9, 2011) – The newly launched Transit Ridership Improvement Program (TRIP) will provide up to $1,700 to Cook County businesses that enroll employees in a pre-tax transit benefit program. Commuters can save between 30 percent and 40 percent on their commuting costs by purchasing transit fares before taxes. The incentive program has $250,000 made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the limited funds will be disbursed to employers on a first come, first served basis.
“With the rising cost of gas, public transportation is the most common-sense approach today. This latest initiative makes it easier and even more cost-effective to travel by bus or train,” said Joe Costello, Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director. “Not to mention, by taking public transportation, you’re contributing greatly to the reduction of pollutants and highway congestion, as well as showing a commitment to the sustainability of our environment.”
Employees typically earn their income, are taxed, and then purchase transit to get to work. Those enrolled in a pre-tax transit benefit program can purchase transit fare before being taxed, which lowers the amount of their taxable income. The transit program is not unlike making contributions to a 401(k) retirement plan. Depending on their transit costs and tax bracket, employees can lower their tax burden by hundreds of dollars per year.
In addition to saving people money, the program encourages people to commute via mass transit, which is typically cheaper and less polluting than driving. According to the American Public Transportation Association, Chicago transit riders can save an average of $11,889 annually by using public transit instead of driving, based on the current national average of $3.47 per gallon of gas. Fares for the CTA, Metra, Pace, Amtrak, and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District are eligible for pre-tax purchase.
Pre-tax transit programs also benefit employers. Participating businesses reduce their payroll taxes by simply making the program available to employees. And, by enrolling in TRIP, employers will receive direct payouts that can total $1,700. Participating employers will receive:
- $10 per month ($30 for a three-month enrollment period) for each new employee (up to 50) who uses pre-tax transit benefits, totaling $1,500.
- An additional $200 when they introduce a pre-tax transit benefit program for the first time and enroll five or more employees.
“Pre-tax transit programs are a major benefit to employers and employees alike,” said Jerry Roper, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “Transit is one of our competitive edges here in Chicago because it allows us to move one million people to and from work efficiently. Tax-free transit encourages increased ridership, and today more than ever, transit is important to keeping our economy moving.”
Funding for TRIP is made possible by ARRA through its Energy Efficiency and Community Block Grant program. The Cook County Department of Environmental Control is administering the program in coordination with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and the Regional Transportation Authority.
“We’ve just experienced the fastest ever two-week increase in gas prices at a time when households are struggling to make ends meet,” said Jacky Grimshaw, CNT’s Vice President of Policy. “Families are pinching pennies wherever they can, and signing up for pre-tax transit benefits is a winner for commuters, it’s a winner for employers, and it’s a winner for the environment.”
To learn more about this incentive program, visit www.lesstaxingcommute.com or contact Emily Robinson at 773.269.4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.