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Ørsted’s trust details $15M grant program to help women-, minority-owned businesses join green energy sector

As Ørsted Offshore North America makes a significant investment and involvement in New Jersey, CEO David Hardy said the green energy company wants to make sure it’s offering opportunities for small women- and minority-owned companies to join in the growth of the industry.

With that in mind, the trustees of Ørsted’s Pro-NJ Grantor Trust Fund announced details of a $15 million fund it will use to provide grants to small businesses that have the skillset — and the interest — to get involved in the industry in a number of ways.

Companies in at least 15 different fields — everything from industry-specific roles such as Marine vessel supply and maintenance and turbine blade inspection and service, to generalist duties such as communications and catering — are eligible to apply for grants they can use to help them participate in the sector. (A complete list of industries is below.)

The first application window for the program begins Feb. 1. Click here to download a Request for Expression of Interest.

“The goal is to truly put our money where our mouth is on environmental justice and broad community engagement,” Hardy said. “We really thought that this was something that could be a differentiator, and really show that we’re not just the big energy company trying to exploit New Jerseyans, but we’re trying to bring opportunity to New Jersey.

“We thought this was a way on this first project to, in a meaningful way, spread the wealth a little bit and help people participate in this industry.”

The $15 million fund was established by Ørsted following the selection of its Ocean Wind offshore wind farm project by the Board of Public Utilities in June 2019.

Hardy said the company created a trust to handle the fund so that it could be run at the local level.

Beverly McCall, chairperson of the Pro-NJ Grantor Trust, said the fund will give small businesses the first step they need to get entry into the growing sector.

“As the offshore wind industry grows in the Garden State and beyond, small businesses need the capital and the opportunity to enter into this fast-growing new sector,” she said.

Here’s how the program will run:

  • Interested business owners should submit Expressions of Interest from Feb. 1-19;
  • The EOIs will then be reviewed by the trustees and members of the advisory committee, and qualified applicants will be invited to submit formal proposals;
  • The application window may be extended, depending on the number of EOIs received;
  • Following the award of funds to small woman- and minority-owned businesses, the trustees will publish a second Request for Expressions for Interest directed toward coastal municipalities and Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties.

The following list represents some, but not all the fields the trust seeks to fund:

  • Onshore and offshore light logistics and services;
  • Marine vessel supply and maintenance;
  • Aviation supply and maintenance;
  • Buildings — construction and repair;
  • Professional services (communications, environmental/permitting, engineering, etc.);
  • Turbine blade inspection and service;
  • Fuel service and supply;
  • Network/wireless communications supply, service and repair;
  • Workforce training, trade/safety, etc.;
  • Cleaning and janitorial;
  • Food service and catering;
  • Onshore and offshore surveys;
  • Project and risk management;
  • Health and safety equipment and clothing;
  • Marine clothing/equipment supply.

Hardy said he hopes the fund becomes a win-win for Ørsted and small businesses in the state.

“(The trustees) will be getting grants to small women-owned and minority-owned businesses so that we can have broader participation in the offshore wind industry,” he said. “And we’ve expanded the principles of the trust to include some funds that could go to resiliency projects along the coast.

“So, we’re earmarking money for both and we’re hoping that that a significant portion of the total $15 million does go to helping these small women-owned and minority-owned businesses. The ultimate prize would be for them to win contracts with us for our supply chain. These grants will help them be competitive.”

The Pro-NJ Grantor Trust is governed by three volunteer trustees. McCall, of Ocean City, serves along with Belinda Manning, of Pleasantville, a retired organizational development professional and community volunteer/activist; and Lori Pepenella, of Barnegat, the CEO of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce.

A community-based advisory committee comprised of nine individuals from Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties helps support the trust’s mission.

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