PECI laying off 15% of employees
By Wendy Culverwell
PECI's Phil Welker said the organization "did some really good work" with stimulus funds.
Portland Energy Conservation Inc. is laying off 15 percent of its 380-person workforce Friday as stimulus-funded energy projects come to an end.
Executive Director Phil Welker said the nonprofit, known as PECI, took on nearly $25 million of work sponsored by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion spending package designed to restart the stalled economy.
PECI hired about 50 people for contracts ranging from an energy smart jobs program in California to weatherizing homes in the states of Utah and Washington.
PECI began to receive stimulus dollars in 2010. The revenue peaked in 2011 and will run out this year.
While painful, Welker said it was critical that the still-growing energy efficiency contractor adjust its workforce. The final number of layoffs is unclear since PECI continues to add new private sector and utility contracts to its workload.
“If we didn’t adjust now, we could make ourselves unhealthy,” he said.
He characterized the stimulus projects as “the pig in the python,” a massive spend that is now working its way through the PECI system.
Welker said workers who came on for the stimulus work understood it was temporary.
“We did some really good work with that money. We brought people into our business when the economy was down. They got a few years of experience,” he said.
The industry is healthier now than it was in 2009 when Congress passed and the president signed the stimulus package. The goal was to stimulate the economy by investing in construction and other projects to generate jobs.
David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST), hasn’t seen a wave of layoffs related to the end of the stimulus bill.
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