Orlando Business Journal article about SunBlox
Friday, July 10, 2009
About $7.7 million in federal stimulus funds is being targeted to improve the energy efficiency of low-income homes in Central Florida, bringing much-needed jobs to home improvement contractors.
The Weatherization Assistance Program funds are part of $175 million the state is expected to receive in two $87.5 million increments.
The Florida Division of Housing & Community Development said Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties will receive the funding this year to help retrofit low-income houses with energy-efficient equipment such as solar screening, repair or replace water heaters, and install attic and floor insulation as well as new heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
The funding can be expected to create up to 215 jobs, according to a widely accepted U.S. government formula of 28 jobs per $1 million in project cost.
Four of the 29 Florida-based organizations that will receive funding are located in Central Florida. They include the Orange County Housing & Community Development Office, Osceola County Council on Aging Inc., Meals on Wheels Etc. and Lake Community Action Agency Inc.
Bill Pass, program manager of housing rehabilitation for Orange County, said the funding should help local organizations improve low-income houses.
In Orange County alone, Pass said there are more than 300 homes that require weatherization upgrades. Bids for those properties should go out by fourth-quarter 2009.
Osceola County has another 150 homes awaiting work that will be bid to the private sector, said Larry Belisle, weatherization program coordinator for the Osceola County Council on Aging Inc.
The economic pressure on low-income homes has caused new applications for assistance to triple from 60 in 2008 to 150 now, he said. “There’s always a need for this work, but now there’s so much more because of this economic recession.”
The work will also help create much-needed work for private-sector contractors.
That’s good news for Chuck Kulp, president of Orlando-based Energy Air Inc., a 350-employee residential and commercial HVAC contractor. Kulp hopes to snag some of the work.
Since the recession began, Kulp said his residential division went from nearly $13 million in volume in 2006 to $4 million this year. The work coming from the Weatherization Assistance Program “would be a big opportunity for us,” Kulp said.
The same is true for smaller contractors such as Sun Blox Inc., a three-person, Ocoee-based residential and commercial solar screen installer.
“This would be a great opportunity for us since we’re a small business looking for whatever we can bid on,” said owner Keith Freeman.