Having worked in the stormwater industry for the last twenty years, Stacie Johnson saw the opportunity to change the way we handle rainwater and jumped on it.
In February, she started GSI Works, an organization looking to give home and business owners simple and affordable steps to protect themselves and their neighbors from sudden flooding and drainage problems.
The number of heavy downpours in Iowa is growing. While Iowa is still getting the same average amount of water per year, 36 inches, it is coming in more intense bursts. This increase in intense rainstorms comes with an increase in flash flooding as well.
Solving two problems at once
GSI Works takes two community issues, urban flooding and people with employment barriers, and marries the two problems, taking advantage of the opportunities that those two things present.
“There’s two arms to GSI Works,” said Johnson, founder GSI Works. “One arm is the training arm and that’s going to be working through social service agencies. Turning to the experts and saying who do you have that would be interested in this type of work.”
GSI Works engineers prosperity in urban core neighborhoods by investing in green infrastructure and connecting those with employment barriers to people with the greatest likelihood of experiencing localized flash flooding.
“The other part is Train Your Rain and that’s the social enterprise aspect,” said Johnson. “That part consists of products, a process and services. And we’ll use those services as the training ground for those getting trained. So it’s a big circle.”
Train Your Rain is an element of GSI Works that takes a treatment approach to preventing flooding. It is a proven approach that captures rain close to where it lands and also ensures a safe escape for all water that remains during more intense storms.
By looking at the rooftops, driveways, and lawns and landscapes of households on a case by case basis, GSI Works is able to provide custom solutions to different households based on their unique needs.
GSI Works is the pilot program for the Social Good Accelerator, a sub-cohort within the Iowa Startup Accelerator that focuses specifically on local nonprofit organizations.
“Every day has been different,” said Johnson. “What I’ve found interesting though is the credibility that the program gave me. I keep meeting people that I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t been accepted into the accelerator program.”
By the end of 2018 Johnson hopes to have the training program up and running along with a fully developed website in place.
“By early next year, I’d like have a proof of concept, have all the kinks worked out of the training program, and slowly start expand into to new EPA regions,” said Johnson. “We’ll take the Train Your Rain concept nation wide, but do it slowly.”
Currently, GSI Works operates solely in EPA Region 7 which includes Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.