SONOMA COUNTY — A diverse assembly of North Bay work force, education, business and nonprofit leaders called the GREEN council was recently approved for a $1 million grant that will be used to launch a region-wide clean-energy job program.

The Green Regional Education & Employment in the North Bay council, previously called Generating Renewable Energy Employment in the North Bay, was launched earlier this year by 25 community and business leaders, including Workforce Investment Board officials from Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Solano counties. The coalition submitted a request for a California Clean Energy Workforce Training Grant through the California Employment Development Department in September and the project was approved the next month.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, which will act as the fiscal agent for the project, approved the release of funds Nov. 11, and money is expected to begin hitting the ground near the end of the month. Sonoma will receive a majority of the funding, or about $325,000, and the rest will be divided evenly between the other counties during the course of 18 months.

Each county will offer a similar program with the goal of training about 300 workers with various clean-energy skills. A “green navigator” will be hired to lead the effort through each county’s One-Stop Center, a free employment services center run by the local WIB.

Each program will also purchase about $20,000 in energy auditing equipment that can be borrowed by program participants. At the same time, the coalition will complete a regional assessment of what jobs will likely be created related to green in the coming years. An online database will track and forecast green-sector employment needs.

“We are really trying to target laid-off construction workers,” said Sonoma WIB Director Karen Fies.

The GREEN council was assembled by the North Bay Employment Connection. The California Clean Energy Workforce Training Grant program is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the State Energy Program, the Workforce Investment Act, the governor’s discretionary funds and Assembly Bill 118.

In related news, the U.S. Green Building Council released a study this month estimating that green building will support 7.9 million workers and about $396 billion in wages during the next four years.

The study found that green construction currently accounts for about 2 million U.S. jobs and more than $100 billion in gross domestic product and wages.

The full report is available from www.usgbc.org/greeneconomy.

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Submit items for this column to D. Ashley Furness at afurness@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.