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Growing a Clean Economy: An Analysis of Equitable Employment Opportunities in Atlanta, GA

Smart Growth America has partnered with Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) on a collaborative project—part of the Kresge Foundation’s Climate Change, Health, and Equity (CCHE) initiative—to advance energy equity and economic inclusion in six southwest Atlanta zip codes by providing both quantitative and policy analysis focused on the emerging clean jobs sector and other climate and equity topics.

In recent years, the City of Atlanta has embraced the transition to a cleaner economy by adopting policies, plans, and programs that prioritize the efficient use of energy, reducing polluting emissions, preserving natural resources, and ensuring a cleaner and more sustainable future for the city. The report was conducted to assess job opportunities within Atlanta’s emerging clean economy sectors and to provide insights on potential workforce development strategies while promoting energy-efficient programs associated with Atlanta’s clean economy plans and policies. The study specifically aims to ensure clean economy opportunities reach Black and Brown residents in six target zip codes that have experienced significant population decrease in recent decades; have median household income levels that are half of those in other parts of the city; have suffered from pervasive cycles of disinvestment; must overcome physical barriers in the built environment, such as traveling long distances to grocery stores; and have significantly lower incomes, employment rates, and educational attainment levels than residents city-wide.

The report finds that:

  • Although Atlanta’s leadership has articulated its commitment to scale and implement climate solutions, these goals are accompanied by a substantial challenge: overcoming a shortage of skills and training.
  • Equitable workforce development policies and programs will be critical to supporting Atlanta’s community members in gaining skills in three high-growth sectors: energy efficiency, solar energy, and green infrastructure.
  • Based on the local workforce’s current characteristics, and the specialized industry sectors and related occupations that are projected to grow in the city over the next few decades, local leaders, decision-makers, and community groups could mitigate furthering existing inequities through:
    1. Aligning efforts across sectors to support the local workforce
    2. Expanding workforce engagement and development programs
    3. Improved data reporting and processes

One of the most impactful approaches to strengthening diversity and inclusion within the clean economy workforce is to reach out to young people still in their formative years and guide them to understand that these jobs, whether highly technical or not, can be attainable for anyone. As so, this report is accompanied by:

The report can also be viewed as a StoryMap, which delivers the research, analysis, and findings in a more concise and engaging online format.