Northampton, MA --News Direct-- Land Betterment Corporation
Hello – I’m Stephanie Conzelman, Stakeholder Engagement Director with Land Betterment. I recently sat down with several members of the Land Betterment team to better understand the creation of Land Betterment and what motivates them to drive Land Betterment forward each and every day. It was a lively conversation needless to say and certainly cannot be covered in just one post.
Please read on to see excerpts from my conversation with Mark Jensen and learn all about the “whys” and the future for Land Betterment through his lens. Mark is Land Betterment’s Executive Chairman, and is a real leader and visionary for successful businesses throughout a wide range of industries. He is not afraid to try what has not been done before.
Q: What excites you most about Land Betterment?
A: The solution!
Folks get stuck in the same way of doing things and don’t look outside the box by bringing different solutions to the table. Historically, there were Government based programs in place to help either the land or the communities decimated by the thermal coal industry. But no one was working in unison to help both. By putting creative ideas together, reacting to what the community wants and working with the community, Land Betterment has been able to solve problems that these communities actually have – problems which are unique to them. In the past people have come into place like Appalachia and done what sounds neat but not what the communities needed to make the land and communities better.
By working with the community and putting creative ideas together, we bring in real viable solutions that can be profitable. We are implementing solutions in a real-life scenario. IN REALITY PROFITABILITY MEANS SUSTAINABILITY.
Q: Why is most of your work in Appalachia?
A: We have been operating in this community since 2006 via our publicly traded company, American Resources. We spend a lot of time there. In fact, I have spent 1/3 of my life there. We understand the problems. 50% of the community was employed by the mining industry so there is a lot need. There is an Industry rebalance and folks need to get back to work. Companies are going bankrupt and walking away - leaving an opportunity. Those companies were not willing to adjust and look at things differently. Land Betterment is looking at things differently. Our solutions can have a real impact and provide a real opportunity for that community in a multitude of ways because we are being creative.
We are also able to apply our expertise gained from running other companies. We understand how the capital side of the world works. These communities need new industry, jobs and money and we know how to do that. Money does not solve problems, but you need capital to re-invent something. We have those relationships and speak that language, but we also speak the language of the local community. We know that these folks don’t want to be turned into computer programmers. You gotta give them an opportunity that they really want that can be family sustainable.
Q: Are there other organizations doing similar work?
A: There are some who are doing non-for-profit aspects of the support. It takes innovation to think out of the box. There is some innovation taking place and that is the whole concept of Land Betterment. We want to encourage other companies to jump in and join us. This does not hurt our business it only helps it.
Here is an example of our innovative thinking. An abandoned school in Perry County, Kentucky went up for auction and we were one of two parties bidding. We purchased that school and are in the process of turning it into a propagation facility for farms. There was no one else at that auction who had the same futuristic thoughts as Land Betterment.
Q: You all are entrepreneurs, are well versed in Appalachia and care about bettering the environment, society and economy. Why is Land Betterment the one to make this happen?
A: The willingness to act. 90% of entrepreneurs are not willing to take that step forward and never really start. We are more than willing to persevere and fight and put forth the effort to be successful. At the end of the day, we are not afraid to listen to what the problems really and truly are and get a real workable solution for the people. We make decisions based on the input.
(I know I was asked to keep this conversation at a high level and not delve into our different business divisions, but this is such a perfect example of how we operate.) One of our employees in Appalachia could not afford his electric bill and was living in a double wide trailer. Trailers don’t sustain temperature and they fall apart. So, we looked for a solution and that is how our eko Housing division was created.
eko aims at providing residents with a modern, alternative housing option in the form of container-based, modular housing villages. The container-based homes use recycled steel shipping containers as the homes’ main frame, which creates a very safe and durable structure, and are very eco-friendly due to the repurposing of materials, quick construction timing, and much less wasted materials. Additionally, ekō homes are very energy efficient and have a solar option, which can further reduce the cost of utilities to near zero.
This is an extremely cool opportunity for that community because many communities in Appalachia need to re-adapt. Not only can we provide them with sustainable housing but we can also turn the community into a vacation destination, where people will go there for hunting trips and business trips. Where they can hunt in rural communities and have a cool place to stay.
Q: What is the end game? What do you want this to become?
A: Ewwww, ahhh….. (Big exhale) REPLICATED. I want it to be replicable over all small rural areas that need an opportunity and need hope!
(Again, I know I was asked to keep this high level but I really need to talk about LBX here.) I am most excited about our LBX division. It could be a gold rush of environmental jobs across the world. Right now, it is only modeled for the USA, but if successful it could be replicated all over the world.
LBX is the first ever market-based program that incentivizes people to clean up environmental impact and restore the land from the fossil fuel industry. The LBX market value and LBX Token Issuance Process has been established to reflect the efficient market and demand for restoring the land from impacted properties. On the secondary market, the higher the value of the LBX, the greater the financial incentive for people to clean up the environment.
What I would l love to see, is these people in all small rural areas that need an opportunity and hope, making ridiculous amounts of money - pay days. If you’re doing environmental work, I want it to be such a gold rush that people will come and pay these folks any amount of money to clean up the environment and completely flip the paradigm of what people think environmentalism means. People think that to be an environmentalist you need to shut things down. I think you can open things up, open up an entire workforce and community to reclaim and clean up these properties, and at the same time you are opening up new industry. This could be 20-30 years of jobs. THAT IS ENVIRONMENTALISM TO ME!
I want Land Betterment to be recognized for flipping the paradigm for what it means it means to be an environmentalist. It’s not about shutting things down, and all business is bad. You need to respect the environment and think about the environment when you make business decisions. That is what Land Betterment can accomplish. IT’S ABOUT OPENING THINGS UP!
Future Q&A articles will include other members of the team as well as deeper dives into Land Betterment’s business pillars – eko, Betterment Harvests, Land Betterment Exchange (LBX), Coal Craft Spirits, Pollinate, Betterment Recycling and Betterment Metal Recovery
About Land Betterment Corporation
Land Betterment Corporation, an Indiana Benefit Corporation and Pending B-Corp, is an environmental solutions company focused on fostering a positive impact through upcycling former coal mining sites to create sustainable community development and job creation. The Company utilizes a complete solution-based lifecycle program to restore and rehabilitate the environment and revitalize communities in need of change and opportunity. Land Betterment accomplishes this by identifying un-reclaimed, run-down and neglected coal mining sites, fixing the environment through reclamation and remediation, and then repurposing the land to support a sustainable business that serves the community. Land Betterment firmly believes that with real solutions it is possible for restoration of impacted areas to live side-by-side long term employment, while building sustainable and safe surroundings for communities and our planet. For more information visit landbetterment.com or connect with the Company on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Mark LaVerghetta317.537.0492 ext. 0Chief Governance Officer, Corporate Financeinfo@landbetterment.com
Stephanie Conzelman207.205.0790Stakeholder Engagement Directorinfo@landbetterment.com
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