April 16, 2009
Sen. Brown touts weatherization programs to boost Ohio economy
BY BRIAN GADD
For The Advocate
ZANESVILLE -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown touted projected job creation from the federal stimulus for weatherization assistance programs Wednesday.
Brown hosted a roundtable discussion Wednesday at the Muskingum Economic Opportunity Action Group in Zanesville.
Ohio is slated to receive $267 million to help needy families make insulation and other energy efficiency improvements in the face of rising utility costs.
"The weatherization program employs Ohio workers, using Ohio products, to lower energy costs of our state's homeowners," Brown said. "This program is not just about reducing energy use -- it's about job creation and economic development in the region."
Brown said as many as 600 new jobs could be created as community action agencies hire more weatherization technicians, and the number of low-income and elderly residents aided by the program could be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in coming years.
Blown-in and rolled insulation will be bought from Ohio companies in places like Newark, and homeowners could receive help with more energy-efficient windows, hot-water heaters and furnaces.
Owens Corning's Newark plant specializes in home insulation.
Brown added that the savings in utility costs could lead to a decline in demand for million of barrels of foreign oil every year.
Job creation was touted in the form of one of the Muskingum action group's newest hires, Rick Smith, of Zanesville, who has been on the job as a weatherization tech for the past two months.
Smith said he was grateful for the opportunity to secure employment after he lost his job when Hartstone Pottery in Zanesville closed.
Brown also highlighted training opportunities available to Ohioans seeking to become certified in weatherization techniques. Five weatherization training centers are located across Ohio -- in Dayton, Athens, Akron, Fremont and Newark.
Tom Calhoun, housing programs manager of the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development in Athens, said his agency recently hired more than 100 new workers and expects the weatherization funds passed by the economic recovery legislation to increase his total work force by another 100 employees.
"We will be investing $41 million in Southeastern Ohio, provide weatherization to 4,000 homes, train workers, purchase trucks and use local products," Calhoun said. "I'm excited about this stimulus. It is going to be a good thing, a blessing for people."
President Barack Obama has a goal of providing weatherization assistance to 1 million homeowners a year, after the program reached 6.2 million homes during the past 35 years.