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Learning from Gulf Coast Community Leaders

July 20, 2011 - 4:31pm

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Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet with leaders from the gulf coast to learn from their successes in rebuilding their communities from the ravages of hurricanes, the BP oil spill, and the national economic recession, as 18 gulf coast Champions of Change gathered at the White House for the Gulf Coast Sustainable Economies Roundtable.

After hearing the stories about the work that these individuals and their organizations have done, it’s clear to me that they are changing the paradigm of gulf coast recovery. People like Byron Bishop, the director of Workforce Works, and Tamara Jones with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance are changing the way buildings are developed in the gulf, creating a generation of green builders in New Orleans who work closely with low-income communities. David Perkes’ Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is using intricate knowledge of architectural design to create affordable, sustainable housing plans.

Will Bradshaw’s Green Coast Enterprises is building energy efficient homes for displaced New Orleanians, and Beth Galante’s Global Green New Orleans used the wisdom of the crowd to run a competition for the best zero energy home, and brought the winning idea to reality with the Holy Cross Project. Dell Jones and Regenesis Power are capturing solar energy, and Jason Stoltzfus’ zero – energy senior living center applies Better Building concepts to benefit gulf coast seniors. Students and teachers at Harry Hurst Middle School in Destrehan, Louisiana took major steps to make their school more energy efficient by starting a recycling program from scratch with the help of the goodwill of a small business called Pheonix Recycling, in turn bringing recycling to their county for the first time in decades.

Vinny Cannatta, LaTosha Brown, Dave Rabou, and Carlton Dufrechou are building community organizations that operate from the ground-up, recognizing that the wisdom of the residents and youth of the gulf coast is critical to rebuilding.

A number of the individuals at the White House today were intimately involved with the clean up efforts after the BP oil spill – Daniel Hahn, Katrina French, Andy Brack, Harlon Pearce, Hank Rogers, and Grace Scire dropped everything to lend a hand, engaging their communities and working tirelessly to get their economies back on track.

Secretary Chu has said that deep in our national DNA is the desire to provide our children and grandchildren with greater opportunities than we received from our parents. We as an agency are working towards that goal every day, and we can’t do it without the ingenuity and innovation of people like the participants in yesterday’s Gulf Coast Sustainable Economies Roundtable.

To learn more about Gulf Coast recovery, visit www.restorethegulf.gov.

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