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In Akron, transit & recycling could give a lift to households in poverty

Marc Lefkowitz  |  10/28/16 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Home efficiency, Transit

A new report finds that jobs in "waste mining” and investments in public transit systems would be as effective as traditional workforce development and job creation strategies in Akron, Detroit, and eight other cities that might include the green economy in poverty reduction goals.

<br />Improving transit in Akron-Summit County could gain the region $8 million, and give a lift to households in poverty.

The report, Urban Opportunity Agenda, was prepared by Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a Chicago non-profit group known for its Housing + Transportation Index which identifies a region’s hidden cost of private car ownership relative to its (compact --> sprawl) land-use.

CNT calculates that $100 million in economic gains would lift 20,000 people, or 25% of the population living in poverty, up to the middle class in Summit County. Of that, $27 million could come from traditional workforce development and job creation.

But, the greening of the economy comes with a surprising amount of fiscal benefit. CNT estimates that $18 million in income could be generated by creating new jobs that capitalize on waste reduction. Another $20 million could be saved in household expense reduction like investing in energy efficiency measures such as LED light bulb exchanges and home insulation programs.

“Summit County has a ‘Zero Waste’ vision,” CNT notes. “Achieving that vision with a focus on creating jobs for residents currently living in poverty could create significant benefits.”

In addition to the environmental benefits, recycling, composting and industrial waste recovery is more labor intensive. CNT estimates that 580 Akronites living in poverty could gain employment in this sector with a more focused strategy.

Another $8 million in expenses could be reduced by providing less expensive transportation options such as public transit.

“Households in Summit County are spending $2.7 billion (or 27 times more than the proposed $100M poverty reduction budget) on transportation alone each year.”

That’s a sizable chunk of Summit County's $30 billion GDP. The County, Akron and its regional transportation agency, AMATS, could see a return on investment in bringing Metro, the region's transit agency, into its poverty reduction goals. It would also spread benefits across all economic strata.

“Growing the number of jobs accessible by a 30 minute transit ride by 4% could mean 250 more jobs (and a $890 per year savings) for people living in poverty in Summit County (assuming 10% of newly accessible jobs are filled by those now in poverty).

"But, it would also mean 2,500 more jobs accessible to everyone in Summit County without driving alone.”

CNT concludes, we may be looking at poverty the wrong way.

“More than any tech incubator, business subsidy, or infrastructure project, poverty reduction has the potential to be an economic engine.

“An in-depth discussion on efficiency, expense reduction, creating opportunity, and quantified outcomes may spotlight a set of near-term actions in Akron & Summit County.”

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