Inland Empire Group seeks $100 million in federal grants to promote racial equity in logistics industry – Daily Bulletin

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An Inland Empire collective of nearly 100 members — from universities and nonprofits to industry leaders, small businesses, unions and advocates — is set to apply for $100 million in federal funding. dollars to promote racial equity and sustainability in the region. booming logistics sectorsaid a spokesperson for the collaboration.

The Inland Economic Growth and Opportunity collective has already filed a phase one application for the $1 billion Regional Build Back Better Challenge funded by the US 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 across the country accelerate their recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and build local economies “that will withstand 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 aimed at helping the region’s economic growth and the second phase will award grants of up to $100 million to implement these projects, according to the program’s website.

Karen Suarez, co-chair of the Inland Empire Growth and Opportunity collaboration and director of Uplift San Bernardino, left, and Alex Avila, co-founder Black and Brown Collective, stand inside the warehouse Community Action Partnership San Bernardino County Food Distribution Center in San Bernardino on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

The Inland Empire collaboration plans to offer the following programs, spokesperson Armando Carmona said:

• A California Sustainable Logistics Center of Excellence to create a diverse industry 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 creating public-private partnerships.

• Collective black and brown strategies to help low-income workers move up the ladder in the logistics industry and funding for small businesses, suppliers, service providers and contractors, especially women and men-owned businesses. people of color.

• Provide vocational training to help workers meet market demands.

• Provide support such as food and housing to students engaged in vocational training, college graduation and job search.

The collaboration is the first effort of its kind in the Inland Empire that provides a seat at the table for all stakeholders, said co-chair Karen Suarez. It represents a diverse group of people and entities coming together to help the region advance economically, she said.

“I’m a Latina with no experience in logistics,” she said. “My father worked in manufacturing and he was the breadwinner of our family. I am the daughter of immigrants. I know what quality manufacturing work can do for families. But, today, people need help to seize opportunities. When you live in poverty, you think about how to meet basic needs. These programs will help us be more intentional when it comes to helping address food and housing insecurity so that we can get people into training programs that will help them move forward in life.

Logistics jobs—which range from sourcing goods to manufacturing, storage, and transportation— increased by 17% the first year of the pandemic throughout the Inland Empire. That means warehousing and transportation work now accounts for nearly 12% of all jobs in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, up from 7.9% in 2015-19. But proponents say the growth hasn’t translated into higher wages for workers, especially people of color, who occupy the lowest rungs of the industry. The average salary at Amazon, the largest player in the logistics industry, is $18 per hour.

Environmental sustainability is another important piece of the puzzle because without it further progress could be wasted, Suarez said.

“We have one of the worst air quality 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. »

Securing federal funding, especially for innovation in areas such as improving transportation infrastructure, is critical because such funding can be difficult to obtain, said Michael Lim, one of the collective’s members and co-founder. from Xtelligent, a Los Angeles-based transportation research and research company. development company.

Lim’s company is working to spread research around the world that could, for example, facilitate a smoother flow of traffic, which means that large trucks traveling from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the Inland Empire don’t sit on highways or surface streets slowing 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 address”, he said.

“But it’s also one of the most important things when it comes to how society works,” 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 exploded 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 in San Bernardino.

“A lot of us aren’t at the table,” he said. “We don’t have a voice or an opportunity to lead. We need access not only to grants, but also to other actors around the table who provide academic research, job opportunities, advertising, marketing and training so that we can connect to all systems. »

Avila set an example of how new businesses are moving into the Inland Empire, but communities of color have “no voice or access.”

“We need to make sure it makes sense for people in our communities to be part of it economically,” he said. “We need to have access to jobs and sustainable 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 Inland Economic Growth and Opportunity Collective 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 did we ever get together and play well in the sandbox?” he said. “Between Riverside and San Bernardino counties, we fought for crumbs. But this collective is a different way of looking at community organization and the economy. We don’t compete with each other, but we elevate and promote each other. It’s a healthier table.

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