LAWRENCEVILLE - Beijing's efforts to cleanse its own air in time for the Olympics have apparently failed. But if the Clean Air Campaign's recent success is any indicator of metro Atlanta's air quality, then things might just be improving.
With gasoline prices retreating from the $4 mark, businesses are still partnering at a record pace with the state's not-for-profit Clean Air Campaign. The group announced Tuesday that in the first half of 2008, 79 employers established partnerships with the campaign, more than doubling the mark from the first half of 2007. Eighteen of those 79 came from Gwinnett County, bringing the total number of partnerships the campaign has in the metro area to 650.
"Interest in our programs and services has grown at a phenomenal rate this year, as employers are calling us, anxious to join," said Kevin Green, executive director for the group. "The prime motivation is relief from high gas prices, but our partners also are concerned about reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality. The Clean Air Campaign's programs positively impact all three areas."
Cathy Bochenek, an environmental, health and safety manager with the WIKA Instrument Corporation in Lawrenceville, said she had been working with Clean Air since April on a carpooling and compressed work-week program for its 600 employees. She said WIKA's initial decision to partner was to assist employees with combating high gas prices and to provide an alternative to solo commuting. She said so far, Clean Air's assistance has proved advantageous by helping employees find fellow carpoolers. She praised the incentives the group can offer as well.
"The Clean Air Campaign provides monetary rewards to carpoolers to further encourage people to use commute alternatives," Bochenek said in an e-mail. "And there is no cost to WIKA. It's really a win-win situation."
She also said WIKA has tossed around the idea of a compressed work-week program, which in their case would be 10-hour workdays Monday through Thursday. More than 17,000 executive branch employees in Utah - roughly 80 percent of its work force - began a one-year trial program this past week in which they will work 10 hours per day, four days per week.
According to Green, 152 of Clean Air's 650 partners have formal, compressed work-week schedules in place and the metro area alone has 15,200 employees who participate in this type of program. He said Clean Air had seen a 30 percent increase in implementing this type of schedule since December.
Green also said that besides being popular among employees because of a perceived improvement in quality of life, this type of program aids in eliminating traffic congestion and helps employers remain competitive at no extra cost to the company.
"Obviously, implementing this depends on the operation," he said. "But if the company's focus is managing by results there are efficiencies to be gained."
Teresa Lynn, the city clerk for Duluth, said the city partnered with Clean Air to implement a compressed work week and the program is being enacted at the discretion of each department. She said since announcing the change, the city has received numerous inquiries from municipalities across Georgia asking about it, too. She said despite the four-day work week for some employees, daily operations aren't affected and the city will still be open five days a week. She said the reasons for enacting a compressed work-week program were as WIKA's Bochenek put it - win-win for both the employer and the employee.
"Besides the clean air, it helps employees offset the cost of gas," she said.