It costs almost ten times as much to generate a kilowatt of power in Jamaica or Botswana as the United States, notes Dr. Reginald Parker, CEO of 510Nano. Reduce that cost and one will dramatically improve economies.
He is proud to build REPP1, a Renewable Energy Power Plant on seven acres of former cotton land in Northhampton County, North Carolina, in Garysburg, N.C., a city with over 90 percent black population. “We’ve already put ten folks to work on the project which broke ground in January, and we’ve insisted that they get more than $10 per hour, when the regular wage for construction in the county is about $8 per hour.”
Parker shared that job creation power during Red, Black & Green, African-American life science, energy and environment manufacturers, on the morning after Earth Day at the Black Coalition on AIDS offices in San Francisco.
Oakland engineer and contractor Ian Booker Sr. also presented his plan for bringing good industrial jobs into depressed areas. A Class A contractor in California, he has begun buying tax lien properties to repair while training youth in construction work.
Upon hearing Booker’s’ vision, investment advisor Dennis Goins of Walnut Creek suggested using real estate investment trusts to acquire surplus properties in neighborhoods. The idea is not new. In the early 1900s, the African-American Real Estate Co. bought up vacant properties in Harlem in order to make housing available for African-Americans. Although much of the attention to Harlem history focuses on music and literature, it was black real estate agents and developers who actually acquired the neighborhood in the early 20th century to make Harlem possible, as Booker T. Washington wrote in his 1907 book The Negro in Business. They acted in response to efforts to displace black residents, a trend happening in many communities currently.
Parker and Phillip Palmer, CEO of Alterra Energy Inc., both saw the potential in biofuel as a sustainable way to generate power. Palmer is pursuing the construction of biofuel facilities to take cooking oil out of waste streams to replace diesel fuel for such customers as the U.S. Navy and transit systems. Parker is also investigating the 400 million gallons of pork waste generated by North Carolina pig farmers daily as a feedstock for biofuel.
Venturata, a Miami-based investment bank of social entrepreneurs, sponsored the Black Innovation Month program to show investors how African-American innovators can achieve solid returns while addressing societal needs. Through its Catapulting Innovation efforts, it has raised the visibility of companies led by 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology to gain investment capital and is working with emerging innovators to build global scale manufacturing concerns.
510Nano is nearing approval of patents for its own proprietary solar power technology. In concert with other innovators, Parker says the interruptibility and storage problems for solar power can be adequately addressed in order to keep power grids supplied at a fraction of current solar rates.
Because of the lack of capital access for African-American firms, Parker has been creative in financing the growth of the company. In Los Gatos, CA, he used a 20 -year power participation agreement to achieve project financing for deploying a REPP atop the town police station in January.
Venturata managing director John William Templeton discussed some of the other Catapulting ventures around the country including restoration of an historic theater in San Diego; the manufacturing of building panels from sorghum in Missouri by ChloroFill and the rapid growth of bioengineering concern Amarantus BioSciences. Through advisory services and merchant banking, the firm is filling the gaps for capital access to black businesses described in the annual State of Black Business report.