Small businesses are often the anchors of a vibrant community. They’re the places we go to find unique experiences, delicious foods, and local knowledge. They also have a role to play in transforming our energy system and boosting the economy by implementing actions to save energy, reduce overhead costs, and grow their business.
Metro CERT, a program of the Great Plains Institute, is working with the Lake Street Council, a business association in Minneapolis, to help small businesses do just that with generous funding from Wells Fargo’s “Environmental Solutions for Communities” program.
On January 16th, 2015, Wells Fargo recognized the Small Business Energy Coaches project by presenting a $50,000 “big check” to the Great Plains Institute at a press event at Minneapolis City Hall. Matt Kazinka, Sustainability Coordinator for the Lake Street Council, kicked off the event by explaining the importance of his work as an energy coach:
Community organizations and business associations like ours know the entrepreneurs in our community. We know that they are most likely to accept help if it comes from a friendly face. When we tell a business owner they can save money right now through energy efficiency, they believe us…
… So that’s what we do as Energy Coaches. We help business owners see that they can save money. We connect them to the experts who are ready to assist. We make sure they get the best deal possible through rebates and grants. Most importantly, we keep checking in with them until the project is completed.
Matt’s comments were followed by Cecilia Pelaez, owner of Los Hornos Del Rey Bakery, who has worked with the Lake Street Council and Energy Smart, a commercial energy efficiency service from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, to save energy and cut overhead costs. Pelaez remarked on the ability for small businesses to be leaders in reducing their energy use:
It is a great pleasure to highlight the organizations that make sense of these seemingly terrifying transitions. [They] made it possible for us to take a look at how we are using our energy, told us how to make it more efficient and cost-effective, and implemented the change. There is no excuse for dragging our feet; there are many resources available to small businesses to be green without it being a financial burden.
Lastly, Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges highlighted how the project models her own goals of advancing growth and equity and running a great city.