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GTECH gardens vacant lots, creates green jobs for students

Now in its third year of operation, GTECH Strategies is revitalizing Pittsburgh's vacant lots and brownfields through bioenergy gardens, and cultivating a green workforce in the region.

The nonprofit plants crops, generally sunflowers, which transforms unused land into community spaces, improves soil quality and produces oil for biofuels. GTECH has not yet produced enough oil to sell commercially, but is looking to increase output and sell its product to local vendors in the future, says Chris Koch with GTECH.

GTECH, which stands for Growth Through Energy & Community Health, is doubling its neighborhood acreage this season. Previously, the nonprofit converted about 12 acres of vacant land in the region, with six of those in Hazelwood's 180-acre Almono Brownfield, and six in neighborhoods such as East Liberty, Lawrenceville and Larimer.

This spring, GTECH planted in New Orleans, its first activity outside the region. New project investments this summer include: 500 Jeanette St. in Wilkinsburg, where GTECH planted on half a 10,000 square-foot site being developed by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation; and a two-acre site at Fifth Avenue and Jumonville Street in Uptown. Additionally, GTECH is in talks to plant in Millvale and Homewood.

Through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association, GTECH will create 12 jobs this summer, a continuation of last year's pilot program. GTECH also partners with Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board on a Green Jobs Advisory Board that brings together between 20 and 30 groups on a monthly basis.

"In the past two years, a green workforce has gone from an unknown concept to something at the forefront of a federal mandate," says Andrew Butcher with GTECH. "The more people exposed to sustainable education, training and experience, the more this sector will continue to grow."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Chris Koch, COO, and Andrew Butcher, CEO, GTECH

Image courtesy GTECH Strategies
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