An Inland Empire collective of nearly 100 members – from universities and nonprofits to industry leaders, small businesses, unions and advocates – prepare to apply for federal funding $ 100 million to promote racial equity and sustainability in the region booming logistics sector, said a spokesperson for the collaboration.
The collective Inland Economic Growth and Opportunity has already filed a phase one application for the billion dollars Regional challenge Build back better funded by the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA) through the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill proposed by President Biden and passed by Congress. According to the agency’s website, these grants are designed to help communities nationwide accelerate their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build local economies “that will be resilient to future economic shocks.”
The first phase of the program will provide $ 500,000 in technical assistance funds to develop and support three to eight projects to help the region’s economic growth and the second phase will provide grants of up to $ 100 million to implement these projects, according to the program’s website.
The Inland Empire collaboration plans to offer the following programs, spokesperson Armando Carmona said:
• A Center of Excellence in Sustainable Logistics in California to create a diverse sector council of entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses and corporations to better inform private sector investment and engagement.
• OASIS Clean Tech Park, which will promote innovation and research by establishing public-private partnerships.
• Collective Black and Brown strategies to help low-income workers move up the ladder in the logistics industry and finance small businesses, suppliers, service providers and sub-contractors, especially women-owned and corporate-owned businesses. people of color.
• Provide vocational training to help workers meet market demands.
• Provide support such as food and accommodation for students engaged in vocational training, college graduation and job search.
The collaboration is the first such effort in the Inland Empire that offers a seat at the table for all stakeholders, said Co-Chair Karen Suarez. It represents a group of diverse people and entities who come together to help the region move forward economically, she said.
“I’m a Latina with no logistics experience,” she said. “My father worked in the manufacturing sector and he was our family’s breadwinner. I am the daughter of immigrants. I know what quality manufacturing work can do for families. But today people need help to seize the opportunities. When you live in poverty, you think about how to meet basic needs. These programs will help us to be more intentional when it comes to addressing food and housing insecurity so that we can get people into training programs that will help them move forward in life.
Employment in logistics – which ranges from sourcing goods to manufacturing, storage and transportation – was up 17% the first year of the pandemic throughout the Inner Empire. This means that warehousing and transportation work now accounts for almost 12% of all jobs in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, up from 7.9% in 2015-2019. But advocates say the growth has not translated into higher wages for workers, especially people of color, who occupy the lower echelons of the industry. The average salary at Amazon, the biggest player in the logistics industry, is $ 18 an hour.
Environmental sustainability is another important piece of the puzzle, because without it, further progress might be futile, Suarez said.
“We have one of the worst air qualities in the Inland Empire state,” she said. “It is important that we find ways to decarbonize the environment so that we can preserve the region’s natural resources for future generations. The good news is that there are solutions.
Obtaining federal funding, especially for innovation in areas such as improving transport infrastructure, is essential because such funding can be difficult to obtain, said Michael Lim, one of the members of the collective and co -Founder of Xtelligent, a Los Angeles-based research and transportation company. development company.
Lim’s company works to disseminate research to the world that could, for example, facilitate smoother traffic, meaning that the large trucks that travel from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the Inland Empire will not. not stop on highways or surface streets. idling their engines and creating more pollution.
“We know that the people who live along these highways are disproportionately people of color,” Lim said. “Our goal is to use technology to improve air quality. “
This issue of improving transport infrastructure is something that even “risk-taking financiers are afraid to tackle,” he said.
“But it is also one of the most important things when it comes to the functioning of society,” he added. “The Build Back Better initiative is a way for us to mobilize resources that might not otherwise be readily available so that we can do something meaningful. “
As the logistics industry has surged in the Inland Empire, it has left behind people of color who are still stuck in low-income jobs, said Alex Avila, co-founder of the Black and Brown Collective based at San Bernardino.
“A lot of us are not at the table,” he said. “We don’t have a voice or an opportunity to lead. We need to access not only grants but also other players at the table who provide academic research, employment opportunities, advertising, marketing and training so that we can connect with all of them. systems.
Avila gave the example of how new businesses are taking hold in the Inland Empire, but communities of color have “no say or no access.”
“We have to make sure that it makes sense for members of our communities to be part of it economically,” he said. “We need to have access to sustainable jobs and income so that they can afford to live in this region. If the companies that come here actually have a conversation with the people that live here, things would be different. “
The collective Inland Economic Growth and Opportunity can help create a design for inclusion and opportunity, Avila said, adding that while the logistics industry is experiencing unprecedented growth in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the region remains underfunded, which has historically led to an unhealthy situation. competition for resources.
“When have we ever come together and played well in the sandbox?” ” he said. “Between Riverside and San Bernardino counties, we are fighting for crumbs. But this collective is a different way of looking at community organization and economy. We are not in competition with each other, but we elevate and promote each other. It’s a healthier table.