Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at a Project Labor Agreement Signing Ceremony

Boston City Hall
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Mayor -- for that great introduction, and for your remarkable leadership.

Whether it is ensuring that every family has the foundation for stability that safe, affordable housing provides or everything you have done to connect those families to opportunity and jobs, for nearly two decades, you have been an extraordinary champion for Boston -- and for Boston's working families.

And today, I'm thrilled to join Bill and the Mayor as we celebrate a historic agreement that strengthens this city's families and affordable homes alike.

We all know what an important moment this is for our economy. We've added 2.1 million private sector jobs over 14 consecutive months, including more than 800,000 jobs since the beginning of the year.

In fact, the last three months of private job gains have been the strongest in five years.

Still, we have a long way to go to replace the millions of jobs lost in the recession -- and we know families continue to struggle with high gas prices.

That's why the Obama Administration has been vigorously promoting project labor agreements with housing authorities, redevelopment agencies and city governments around the country.

And in December, Boston became the first HUD grantee to be a part of this effort, as Ameresco, the Metro Boston Building & Construction Trades Council signed a Project Labor Agreement with the Boston Housing Authority.

The timing of this agreement is important, as the Boston Housing Authority, which provides affordable homes to 1 out of every 10 people in Boston, is in the process of greening 13 public housing developments with $63 million in funds HUD provided as part of President Obama's Recovery Act.

Through the Recovery Act, 245,000 public housing apartments are on track to receive a range of energy improvements.

Already, we're well more than half of the way there -- housing authorities tell us they have installed 158,000 Energy Star refrigerators, 125,000 water-saving shower-heads and bathroom fixtures, and more than 30,000 programmable thermostats in homes across the country.

The city estimates the investment here in Boston will save $56 million in energy costs over the next 20 years -- providing hundreds of jobs for local workers, public housing residents and small and minority-owned businesses, and reminding us that over the long run, these investments more than pay for themselves.

Indeed, Boston also reminds us that not only do Project Labor Agreements establish a framework for cooperation that ensure projects funded with taxpayer dollars are completed on time with high quality workmanship -- they also provide training, employment, and contract opportunities for those who were harmed most by this recession.

We see that clearly in HUD's Section 3 program, which ensures local projects create opportunities for low-income residents in the neighborhood.

The latest data shows that because of contracts with Section 3 businesses--which included $430 million of construction work--30,000 Americans were hired during this recession -- more than half of whom were low-income residents who received the training and the skills they need to succeed.

And as this agreement shows, Project Labor Agreements can promote apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities for residents of public housing and recipients of Housing Choice Vouchers.

With support from partners like Ameresco, Boston's program is the first of its kind in Massachusetts, featuring direct entry placement into any of the 13 Building Trades apprenticeship programs -- ensuring that the job training opportunities necessary to compete in the 21st century economy is available to the families that need them most.

So, this is a historic moment -- for Boston, for this city's families, and for this city's economy.

As President Obama has said, winning the future starts with out-building, out-innovating, and out-educating our competitors.

Well, with this one agreement, we commit to doing all three at the same time.

Any way you slice it, that's bang for the buck.

That's smart government.

And that's precisely the kind of leadership it's going to take to win the future -- here in Boston and across the country.

So, thank you for this opportunity -- for making this historic day possible.

And now, it's my pleasure to introduce a champion of affordable housing for Boston families -- the head of the Boston Housing Authority, Bill McGonagle.


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