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Nov

Liberty City eco-friendly company focus is all green

Liberty City eco-friendly company focus is all green

Liberty City will soon be home to the potato fork. It’s one of the ways Pandwe Gibson looks to tackle …
Liberty City will soon be home to the potato fork.

It’s one of the ways Pandwe Gibson looks to tackle environmental issues while addressing poverty in the area.

Gibson is founder and CEO of EcoTech Visions, the region’s first environmentally conscious business incubator, which opens this month in Liberty City at 667 NW 90th St.

By providing office space, consultation and equipment, EcoTech Visions can develop green start-ups like Earthware. It’s a cutlery production company that makes forks, knives and spoons from potato starches, cups from corn products and plates that when trashed do little harm to the earth.

What Gibson believes companies like Earthware serve to Liberty City is the power for residents to decide the direction of their community.

“We want to be at the table not on the table,” she said. “We’re usually on the table being carved up. This is the opportunity to be alongside decision-makers.”

Gibson believes community decision-making starts with an economic investment. She is already working with seven green minority or women-owned businesses through the EcoTech Visions incubator. And she deliberately chose to launch the tech incubator in Miami’s Liberty City with another hope: encouraging Black people to focus on green practices.

“As people of African descent, the environment is our inheritance – an importance we have on an ancestral level,” Gibson said.

But with Black unemployment rates almost twice the national averages, many struggle just to take care of their basic needs. Gibson said many individuals can’t afford to care about the environment.

“If people are worried about survival, they really don’t care about whether the whales are dying or about carbon emissions,” Gibson said.

It’s why Gibson is making the fight against poverty in Liberty City a priority simultaneous to her desire to protect the planet. A Harvard graduate, Gibson said her mother’s community volunteerism kept her connected to the planet. But as a former educator, Gibson realized she could not impact neighborhoods if she ignored adults.

“You can’t help children if you don’t create economic opportunities for parents,” she said.

Gibson understands that Liberty City residents may not be interested in biodegradable forks made from potatoes – even when those forks have the potential to minimize the use of hazardous plastic wastes. But if a business like EcoTech’s Earthware creates the environmentally responsible products while providing local jobs, Gibson believes people will pay attention.

“In order to have low-income communities care about the environment, you’ve got to tie it to their income,” she said.

With Earthware, EcoTech Visions is projected to generate at least 50 green jobs in the next two years. Other companies, like an electric motorcycle start-up and a truffle oil producer, will also be housed in the EcoTech Visions building.

In addition to its office space, EcoTech Visions is outfitted with a conference room and different labs for light manufacturing, soilless growing and product development. The company has caught the attention of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime for its environmentally friendly and job-creating initiatives.

“One of the challenges we face is whether we can keep nature unpolluted,” he said. “With enterprises like EcoTech it’s a win-win. It’s a cornerstone in my vision to spur economic development and to bring innovative enterprises into our green corridor.”

Liberty City will soon be home to the potato fork. It’s one of the ways Pandwe Gibson looks to tackle …
The county is planning to upgrade northwest Seventh Avenue and is encouraging businesses that are green to join the area.

Monestime will attend EcoTech’s grand opening Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. with other county officials. For Gibson, the grand opening represents an important move to reverse the cycle of gentrification in Black neighborhoods.

“I’m in a place where I’m watching gentrification happen and I can do something,” Gibson said. “We already know Overtown has gone to developers. We don’t have to lose out every single time.”

Back in September, the Seventh Avenue redevelopment agency awarded $60,000 to EcoTech Visions to open on the street. The company has also received community development grants from Miami-Dade County and other investors for a total of nearly $200,000. Kevin Greiner of the redevelopment agency said the CRA is working on outreach to businesses like EcoTech Visions.

“We hope this actually drives applications [for grants], more quality applications, and that more people start taking advantage of the funding that we do have,” Greiner said.

Just last week, The Miami Times reported that Miami-Dade County designated parts of Seventh Avenue a “regional priority” and is offering incentives to attract businesses, working with local agencies to clean up the place and planning to give the corridor a “Biscayne treatment.” Gibson said Liberty City and the surrounding areas are a gold mine.

“Prices on Seventh Avenue have skyrocketed in the last year. Why do you think they’re providing the money to businesses?” she said. “The people from the community are the last to realize that they’re sitting on a gold mine. We want to facilitate realization.”

SOURCE

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