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Laura A. Hutchings Headshot

Revive America's Construction Industry

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Like many small business owners in the energy efficiency and construction industries, I have spent months writing letters to my senators in support of the home energy retrofit legislation called Home Star. Tomorrow, Congress will determine whether the Home Star Retrofit Act of 2010 will make its way to the Senate floor as part of the Small Business Jobs bill. As the Co-Chair of Efficiency First Colorado, I am writing with an urgent call to action from Efficiency First Chairman Greg Thomas and Policy Chair Matt Golden:

The American construction industry, fueled not so long ago by new housing developments and urban renewal, has come to a crashing halt. Unemployment in the construction sector has climbed to nearly 25 percent, greatly impacting the nation's rate of unemployment at 9.3%.

Fortunately, a viable solution to this ongoing employment crisis is now moving through the United States Senate. The Home Star Retrofit Act of 2010 would make direct consumer incentives available to American homeowners for residential energy efficiency upgrades, reducing household energy waste by 20-50 percent. By boosting demand for skilled home improvement work that cannot be outsourced overseas, Home Star would create good, living-wage jobs for tens of thousands of construction workers who have been sidelined by the recession--and get domestic assembly lines rolling again to provide the insulation, sheet metal, heating and cooling equipment and other manufactured goods that are used in energy upgrades.

This bipartisan legislation, which passed the House of Representatives in May and now resides in the Senate, has the potential to create an estimated 168,000 new jobs in construction and related industries over the next two years. Much of the hiring would be done by small business owners in all 50 states who are already engaged in saving American homeowners money on their energy bills. The program has strong support from a broad spectrum of business leaders, trade associations, environmental groups and nonprofit organizations, ranging from local contractors and HVAC services to the Sierra Club and the United States Chamber of Commerce.

America's Home Performance industry is poised to take on the task of retrofitting America's existing housing stock with cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades, but now that word has gotten out about Home Star, we've seen a 15-20 percent drop in business over the past two months as consumers wait for the Home Star incentives to become available. The sooner we get this law enacted, the sooner we'll be able to get hardworking Americans off the unemployment rolls and back in productive jobs that are good for the nation and the environment.

To ensure rapid near-term job creation in the construction industry, we call on Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring Home Star to the Senate floor this week as part of the Small Business Jobs bill.