August 10, 2022

‘High Road Economic Inclusion Framework for an Equitable Climate-Ready Economy’ Report Addresses Climate Change, Equity, Economic Development

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in partnership with other County departments, agencies and community business stakeholders, has completed the High Road Economic Inclusion Framework for an Equitable Climate-Ready Economy report that lays out a set of integrated strategies addressing climate change, equity and economic development.

The analysis, conducted by Emerald Cities Collaborative and its subcontractors, Inclusive Economics and Health Care Without Harm, focuses on the need to actively align the County workforce and small business ecosystems. It also recommends leveraging partnerships with large “anchor institutions” to advance climate action and economic inclusion.

“We can’t reach our climate change goals without addressing systemic inequities and we can’t build a robust and resilient economy without considering climate change,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “While climate change is no doubt an extraordinary threat to our very livelihood, it also presents an historic opportunity to boost our economic development and address racial economic disparities. We intend to seize that opportunity.”

Adriana Hochberg, the County’s chief climate officer and acting DEP director, said the report provides a plan with new approaches to aspects of combatting climate change.

“Climate work involves systems-level change that cuts across sectors,” said Ms. Hochberg. “Admittedly, these are sweeping recommendations that will require a new way of doing things. But that is what the climate emergency demands. If we are serious about climate change—and we are dead serious—we must move down this path and quickly.”

Daryl Wright, Emerald Cities Collaborative’s chief strategy officer, and project manager, said decarbonizing the building sector alone, a top priority in the County’s “Climate Action Plan,” would generate an estimated 2,600 to 3,360 jobs per year through 2050.

“Just like other jurisdictions, the County is facing a labor gap between the green building jobs needed and workforce readiness,” said Mr. Wright. “Getting ahead of this imbalance, through green workforce development and supporting the growth of small, minority-owned contracting firms, is key.”

Recommendations in the report include:
  • Develop a climate science/eco-economy cluster.
  • Establish a Climate Action Business Incubator program for diverse contractors with specific focus on community serving projects.
  • Strengthen labor and environmental standards in RFPs and contracts.
  • Convene anchor institutions to align procurement programs prioritizing local and green vendors, particularly around sustainably produced food.
  • Develop a food aggregation hub for the collection, storage, processing, cold storage and distribution of sustainably produced local food.  
  • Develop a high road training partnership with WorkSource Montgomery, Montgomery College, labor organizations and community-based organizations to address the labor shortage and create accessible, high-quality jobs for underserved residents
Anthony Featherstone, executive director of WorkSource Montgomery, embraces a broadening of his agency’s partnerships to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and racial equity.

“We see ourselves at the center of this collaborative ecosystem to align the County’s education and training infrastructure and create workforce pathways through a high road training partnership,” said Mr. Featherstone. “I’m excited to move forward.”

Heather Bruskin, executive director of the Montgomery County Food Council, said the recommendations align with the Food Council’s goals to build a stronger local food system that is less reliant on food sourced from faraway places through fragile supply chains.

“One component of climate resilience is increased local food production, procurement and distribution,” said Ms. Bruskin. “The anchor strategy proposed in the report addresses that issue, and importantly, will help drive the County’s emissions reduction, sustainability and equity goals. Our community is eager to move forward in implementing the strategy in partnership with local government.”

To access the report, go to Montgomery County High Road Economic Inclusion Framework for an Equitable Climate-Ready Economy.

Additional information is also available by contacting Douglas Weisburger in the Department of Environmental Protection at