Clever do-it-yourself project ideas are all the rage right now. But they are nothing new to Iron Triangle residents such as Tonie Lee.
Rather than shell out a pretty penny for a shiny new grill at the department store, Lee recalls folks in her low-income neighborhood setting grills onto park trash cans in order to have barbecues.
“My grandfather would just make [the grills],” Lee said.
Today, that example of ingenuity is one of several transforming into actual products as part of a company that is entirely run by Iron Triangle residents.
Last week, a launch party was held at Harbour-8 Park on the Richmond Greenway for Pogo Park Products, an Iron Triangle for-profit social enterprise that is getting its start thanks to a $1 million investment from Chevron Richmond’s eQuip Richmond, an economic revitalization initiative.
The grant will fund product ideas that have been 10 years in the making — since the founding of the award-winning Pogo Park nonprofit. Noted inventor and entrepreneur Toody Maher started Pogo Park in 2007 with the aim of employing and training Iron Triangle residents in projects that revitalize neglected parks in their neighborhood.
Instead of hiring outside contractors, the Pogo Park staff designed and constructed park structures and amenities on their own — while receiving job-skills training in the process.
The nonprofit partnered with the master artists at the influential Scientific Art Studio (SAS) of Richmond — the shop behind the creation of the giant glove at AT&T Park and the new play areas at San Francisco Zoo — and their combined impact has been significant, leading to the development of the award-winning Elm Playlot at 720 Elm Ave., Harbour-8 Park and the Yellow Brick Road Project pedestrian network.
After 10 years of creating parks and park amenities, Pogo Park has built enough custom-made items to make up a full product line that can be sold for use in parks far beyond Richmond. That products line is one of several local economic development ideas receiving a share of $10 million in Chevron eQuip Richmond funds over the next three years.
Pogo Park Products is one of several collaborative projects receiving support from eQuip Richmond.
Chevron’s $10 million, three-year investment creates projects that directly address economic needs of specific neighborhoods and their residents, such as job-focused training, support for entrepreneurship, business retention and expansion, and securing permanent pathways to sustainable, living wage or better jobs and careers in growth industries.
Pogo Park Products does just that – the for-profit social enterprise provides jobs and job training to local residents as part of a partnership uplifting multiple community businesses, all the while helping to beautify local parks. .
But there are other clever projects at play: The Construction Resource Center (CRC), a business accelerator providing business incubation and job training in construction sciences and trades and the green construction industry. The CRC, led by East Bay Resource Center in partnership with RichmondBUILD and The Stride Center, opened in October of last year.
And there’s also CoBiz Richmond, which is expected to open in the ground floor of the Richmond BART Station parking garage on Macdonald Avenue early next year. CoBiz Richmond will provide a co-working and event space and small business incubator in the heart of downtown. It will specifically serve the needs of small businesses, entrepreneurs and other professionals.
eQuip Richmond will also be investing in the Center for Employment and Training to provide accredited and certified training to underserved and hard-to-serve clients in high-growth, livable wage industries.
Also, a new eQuip Richmond mobile app will be custom-designed to connect all project partners, clients, businesses and services into a one-stop shop for economically uplifting the community and residents. One part of the app will connect residents to supportive services throughout the area.
“The mobile app technology will revolutionize the way in which agencies deliver services and interact with clients, and the way residents access jobs, services and Richmond resources,” said Andrea Bailey, community engagement manager with Chevron Richmond. “We are currently working with a company that is developing the salesforce community and implementation platform between the mobile app and all of eQuip project partners.”