Growing the Green Economy Blog

Delta Assesses the State of Green Business in the Great Lakes Region
February 19, 2010, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Emerging Green Industries, Resources and Tools

On February 9, 2010, Delta Institute co-sponsored The State of Green Business Forum, organized by The one-day forum addressed the opportunities and challenges facing the green economy and highlighted developments in Chicago and the surrounding region. The Delta Institute’s founder and executive director Donna Ducharme shared her perspective on local opportunities and challenges: :

“Our big challenge on a regional basis is to figure out where we’re going and pull the resources together to get there,” said Donna Ducharme, founder and executive director of The Delta Institute, one of the region’s most respect green economy leaders.

“Energy efficiency and reducing waste will be crucial to success in the region, and larger companies are currently leading in those areas, she said. There is “lots of promise” for more activity and job growth at smaller companies and in emerging sectors, including renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar, biomass, as well as advanced battery technology.

Chicago is now the headquarters for 10 wind-power companies, up from seven a year ago and a sign that the Great Lakes region has more renewable-energy activity than many realize. Energy efficiency is a hot topic, and state and federal grants in this area are expected to grow by tens of millions over the next three years. The green economy is growing despite the fact that Chicago has among the lowest costs in the country for electricity, water and landfill services.

According to DuCharme, moving the needle requires seed capital to develop new industries and infrastructure for redevelopment and green businesses. Today, that money is hard to come by because lenders are risk-averse. Smaller community banks that could fund local ventures are “lending on more conservative terms and not funding startups,” she said. The Chicago area is the third largest in population but 14th in terms of the amount of venture capital it receives, and Ducharme said that is a “big disconnect” with the amount of green activity and potential.

The green economy also holds significant potential for employment growth in the region, which has been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs. Most of the money available today is for job training, not job creation, and Ducharme said. “We need to develop whole industries, not just train people for jobs,” and employment opportunities will follow.

The Delta Institute undertook a major initiative in that area recently by establishing the Green Business Development Center, which offers training and technical assistance to help established and new businesses become more competitive through cost reduction and more efficient use of resources while reducing their environmental impact. “Our goal is to accelerate the transformation to the green economy by helping companies capitalize on opportunities for innovation and competitive advantage.”

Interest is growing in green jobs among professionals eager to contribute what they see as a noble cause, and Ducharme suggested they need to offer more than enthusiasm to potential employers. “It is critical that they have some experience. They have to get involved and prepare themselves with practical experience and training.” To find out more about training and technical assistance for businesses and individuals, visit


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