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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Joshua Lloyd talks to the Times Free Press at a Bushtown home renovation on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

This story was updated at 8:29 p.m. on Friday, June 12, 2020, with more information.

Kimberly Lloyd started her own business eight years ago providing many of the janitorial and support services she used in her previous job as a property manager.

SWJ Services evolved over time into construction services, property investments and energy efficiency installations. But for all of her diverse experience and initiatives, Lloyd was not aware of a key assistance program provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority and EPB until she was alerted by the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga about a new contractor training and certification program for TVA's eScore and EPB's Home Energy Upgrade program.

SWJ Services became the first local minority-owned contractor this year to be certified under the new initiative to expand the number of minority-owned contractors certified to perform the energy upgrades in the TVA-funded program. Last week, SWJ began working on making energy upgrades at a 1,600-square-foot home in Bushtown designed to help encourage even more redevelopment and energy efficiency projects in the area.

"This allows us to be able to go into a lot more homes and offer energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors and other home features," Lloyd said last week while working on a 1,600-square-foot home on Holly Street. "Without the Urban League, we wouldn't have known about this opportunity."

TVA and many of its 154 local power companies are providing both technical and monetary assistance to homeowners and and developers in low-income areas to help improve the energy efficiency of often poorly insulated and energy inefficient houses and appliances. EPB, with the support of Green Spaces, United Way, the Salvation Army, Causeway, Habitat for Humanity and the Benwood, Footprint and Lyndhurst foundations, has already aided more than 250 such energy upgrades at local homes in targeted neighborhoods.

Local power companies say they need more contractors to be able to make the energy efficiency improvements. Warren Logan, president of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, said Urban League chapters in Tennessee's major cities are working to train and certify at least 40 minority-owned contractors this year to help conduct the energy efficiency improvements in the TVA programs.

"For whatever reason, there were very few minority contractors doing this work," said Logan, who is also chairman of the Electric Power Board in Chattanooga. "We've worked to help more contractors know about the program and what it takes to become certified as well as providing the training to help them become certified."

TVA requires use of companies that have been approved as quality network certified (QNC) contractors to perform work in the energy efficiency programs.

TVA chose Tennessee's Urban League Affiliates last year to develop the pilot program in preparation for an even bigger program in fiscal 2020. Vicky Bone, an energy consultant hired to develop the program at the Chattanooga Urban League, is working with Urban League chapters in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, as well as Chattanooga, and has already certified 26 contractors, including nine in Chattanooga.

Even with some in-person classes put on hold due to the coronavirus this spring, Bone said she is confident that the training initiative will surpass the minimum TVA goal for certifying more contractors.

"It looks like we're on track for more than 40 contractors this year," she said.

TVA distributors such as EPB in Chattanooga conduct eScore energy audits to help individuals and businesses identify cost-effective energy efficiency measures they might implement . Local power companies also operate energy efficiency programs in low-income neighborhoods such as EPB's Home Energy Upgrade program which have used TVA grants to make energy upgrades in more than 250 homes over the past four years.

The new Urban League program teaches minority contractors and employees how to properly weatherize homes, reducing residents' total energy expenditures while improving their health and safety. Bone said such skills are in demand and the median pay for workers training in such fields is about $16 an hour.

The training program is open to any business that has been in operation for at least a year and has a valid business license. The training includes both business skill development by Launch Chattanooga and Co.Lab. in Chattanooga and hands-on skills training in air sealing, attic insulation and duct sealing offered through green/spaces in Chattanooga.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Kimberly Lloyd talks to the Times Free Press at a Bushtown home renovation on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
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