Van Jones has a grand vision of a revitalized American economy built around the burgeoning green building movement - and he envisions the remodeling industry at the forefront of the charge.

"We're beginning to see a tremendous transformation" of not only the building industry, "but the economy as a whole," Jones said Tuesday.

courtesy Jeffrey Lee

Jones, founder and president of Green For All, a national campaign to create "green collar" jobs for minority youth in urban America, believes that the current energy crisis has charged Americans ? and remodelers in particular ? with the task of revitalizing the country's infrastructure to become less dependent on nonrenewable energy sources.

This task, Jones predicts, will create millions of new construction jobs in the U.S. By training urban youth to fill these jobs, "we're not only fighting pollution," he explained, "but poverty as well."

It's no secret that fewer young people today are choosing to enter the trades than ever before. As a solution, Jones encouraged remodelers to scour local community colleges, vocational schools, and churches for potential new employees. He also encouraged remodelers to contact their local civic leaders to express the need for the creation of "green collar" job training programs. Jones successfully lobbied the city of Oakland, Calif., to implement one such program; the Green Jobs Corps is scheduled to begin this summer.

His call to action resonated with remodelers. "Those of us in the industry are constantly asking each other, 'Where will the next generation of workers come from?'" David Merrick, of Merrick Design and Build, in Kensington, Md., commented. "Well, this is it."

Jones summed up the overarching importance of the situation: "We're not just remodeling, we're modeling ? the future of our country and our economy."

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