EAST HARLEM — El Barrio is going green.
Mark Davis, the founder of the country’s first African American-owned solar panel manufacturer is expanding the Washington D.C.-based company by hosting workshops in Harlem.
In January about 30 people learned about solar panels, their impact on the environment and how to install them. Last week, they gained hands-on experience by installing panels on a residential building on 118th street.
“Taking this training might actually change my life,” said Chris Diaz, 29.
Diaz, who lives in East Harlem, has worked in construction, retail, and janitorial services. He sees a job in the solar industry as more of a career than his previous jobs and is currently finalizing a contract to work for Davis’ company, WDC Solar, he said.
At the intensive two-week workshop, he and the others learned about how solar panels work as well as the practical lessons of how to install systems.
“You can make some money and you can help people save money,” said John Fields, 49, who also attended the workshop. “And you can save the earth. I know it sounds like baloney but it’s very important work.”
Eight of the participants will get jobs through Davis’ company. Others will be referred to other companies who install panels in the city, Davis said.
He plans to have more workshops in Harlem and El Barrio but does not want to schedule any until he has job opportunities lined up for the participants.
“Basically with this we had a job waiting at the end which is rare but with these guys, they hit the jackpot,” said Davis, who was invited to the president's State of the Union Address by Michelle Obama.
Davis hopes to expand to other areas with a high African-American population like Atlanta and Baltimore in the next couple of years.