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How CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs Will Help Small Solar Businesses

As we work to modernize, diversify, and expand Illinois’ energy workforce and prepare the workforce for a carbon-free future, it is imperative to equip smaller contractors with the tools they need to help our state meet its clean energy goals. This program’s launch will enable the solar industry to build more projects and help Illinois achieve an equitable clean energy future that uplifts every community in the state.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) are making a big difference on this front with their recent announcement of the Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program, or “CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs.” This $21 million investment will create 13 community-based hubs to help grow clean energy contractors’ businesses across the state. As the Midwest Clean Energy report notes, small businesses make up 73% of the clean energy industry employers in Illinois.

Equity is one of the core tenets of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), the nation’s most progressive clean energy bill. The CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs, which focus on underserved communities, will help ensure no one is left behind in the clean energy revolution.

The hubs will offer low-cost capital, training, mentorship, and networking opportunities, among other assistance, according to the Governor and DCEO. Even more significant is that the hubs will prioritize supporting business owners and contractors from historically marginalized communities as well as entrepreneurs focused on environmental justice.

The 13 hubs will be established in:

  • Alton

  • Aurora

  • Carbondale

  • Champaign

  • Chicago (South Side)

  • Chicago (Southwest and West Sides)

  • Danville

  • Decatur

  • East St. Louis

  • Joliet

  • Peoria

  • Rockford

  • Waukegan

To fully launch the program, DCEO will award grants to community-based organizations such as nonprofits, accredited public colleges, and universities that operate each local hub. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on December 11, 2023. (You can apply at this link.)

Awarding the grants to community-based organizations will ensure the CEJA Contractor Incubator Hub program reaches populations who need the most support. No one knows a community better than the community-based organizations that serve them.

Thanks to CEJA, DCEO is investing a total of $180 million per year in workforce development programs across the state. Solar Powers Illinois is thrilled to see DCEO launch yet another initiative to meet the workforce equity goals established by CEJA.

The CEJA Contractor Incubator Hubs Program is an exciting and important step toward a cleaner, brighter, and more equitable future for all Illinoisans. Reaching the state’s bold goal of 100% clean energy by 2050 will require consistent and intentional effort, and this announcement is a critical step toward achieving that vision.

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