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


Roadmap to the Green Economy for Indianapolis

IN MapOn September 15, The Delta Institute and Sustainindy presented “Tapping into the Emerging Green Economy,” a one-day workshop to promote brownfield redevelopment and lay the groundwork for a Green Economic Development Action Plan for Indianapolis. More than 30 representatives from area businesses, nonprofit support groups, government agencies and service providers attended the session.
The session kicked off with the unveiling of a report developed by Delta Institute under a grant from the USEPA. In addition to defining the green economy and highlighting national green business and job trends, the presentation assessed Indy’s economic assets and competitive advantages, sources of business and political support and other resources. Six significant opportunities were discussed:
1. R & D for Electric Vehicles – A combination of strong academic research and technical capabilities combined with federal goals for hybrid vehicles and stimulus funding for retooling the auto industry is making Indianapolis a strong regional competitor in this area.
2. Manufacturing of Renewable Energy Components – Wind energy has been among the first renewable energy industries to emerge in the Midwest and there are over 250 tons of steel in an average wind turbine. Through informal research, Delta was able to identify more than 1,300 firms in Indiana that may have the potential to manufacture Renewable Energy components.
3. Green Building Products and Services – Green Building has been on a strong upswing throughout the Midwest. As the number of Indianapolis’ green buildings (LEED certified or otherwise) grows, so do jobs in sustainable construction, technical assistance, professional services, green building products and dealers and wholesalers.
4. Waste Reduction, Recycling and Pollution Prevention – Although new energy-related industries are growing rapidly, businesses that help meet other sustainability goals through conservation and pollution mitigation may represent the biggest area of growth…some estimates suggest that these could account for roughly 65% of all clean jobs.
5. Agriculture and Horticulture – Despite harsh winters and short growing seasons, there is an increase in urban and other agricultural enterprises. Many provide transitional job training in landscaping and farming, nutrition and environmental practices.
6. Greening Existing Businesses — Many new jobs are developing to support the greening of the existing business base, which will be critical to maintain the competitiveness of existing businesses in the global economy. Read the full report here:
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More Information and Resources: A number of agencies and groups at the state and city levels offer helpful information, resources and tools for green economic development and brownfield reuse. Here are some who participated in the workshop and the information they can offer:

Tapping into the Emerging Green Economy

On September 15,  more than 40 people participated in a full-day workshop at which Delta Institute presented it’s Green Economy Roadmap for Indianapolis.  Attendees — share your comments and thoughts about this presentation and/or remarks by other speakers.  If you didn’t attend, review the presentation and let us know what you think. IndyGreenEconomyV3091409nonotes

Defining “The Green Economy”

StreetSign-still-shorterJPEGMany local chambers of commerce and business support groups are exploring how they can tap into the emerging green economy and create new networks to support sustainable businesses. The tricky part is in figuring out where in the economy to focus limited time and resources.

Over a dozen national reports have been released since last fall estimating the potential job creation that could result from increased investment in green industries. The range of industries and the number of jobs varies, but almost all estimates include renewable energy, alternative transportation fuel, green building, energy efficiency retrofits, and waste reduction as the cornerstones of the emerging green economy. Most major recent green jobs reports can be found on Green for All’s website here.

So what steps can a local economic development organization take to nurture growth in these key emerging industries? One common approach is to ask a local economic research partner (a regional planning agency or a business program at a community college) to generate a list of existing businesses that may already be part of these industries.

Finding lists of businesses with the potential to manufacture renewable energy equipment is fairly easy thanks to a series of state reports generated by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP), a Washington D.C. based research organization. REPP is working with the Blue-Green Alliance (the United Steel Workers and Sierra Club) to create and publicize reports estimating job creation linked to major new investment in renewable energy. More information on how to create a list of businesses with potential to be equipment suppliers is covered in a separate article below.

Creating a list of businesses that might already be involved in producing green goods and services is a good start any local green economic development strategy. Business data sources are typically a couple of years old, so you might want to do some supplemental internet research.. The next step is more difficult: contacting businesses on the list to understand the nature of their business and assess their business assistance needs. Are they start-up businesses that need help with marketing and access to financing? Are they established businesses looking for green suppliers? Do they need help understanding the impact of a potential new federal cap and trade system on their businesses?

Common business survey software can be used to create a database to keep track of existing businesses and business needs. Delta has also developed a list of custom questions to help capture additional information relating to green businesses.

The Answer Could Be Blowing In the Wind

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Ever wonder why there is such hype about wind turbines?  For one, a typical wind turbine contains 250 tons of steel.  And a lot of the parts are in the same general industry groups as many auto parts.  Major new investment in wind farms (spurred in large part by federal tax incentives and state renewable energy portfolio standards) has the potential to create jobs in steel mills and manufacturing plants.

How many jobs depends on how many existing manufacturers can retool to meet industry needs, but Blue-Green Alliance predict creation of thousands of jobs per year over the next 10 years in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. [View REPP Solar Wind Summary Indiana]

Wind conferences across the Midwest include supply chain sessions laying out the basic needs of global energy companies seeking domestic suppliers.  Wind turbines require expensive, aerospace-precision parts as well as some parts requiring massive amounts of steel such as towers and mounting structures. Good state by state reports with pictures and industry codes for the various wind, solar, biomass and geothermal components can be found on the Renewable Energy Policy Project’s website.

Manufacturing councils or manufacturing partnerships in the Midwest have wind supply chain programs, such as those run by the Chicago Manufacturing Council (CMC) or the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council (CMRC).  If you are in an area that doesn’t have a wind association or a manufacturing council, other Midwest organizations with wind supply chain experts include:

State energy offices, such as the Indiana Office of Energy Development , local economic development groups or private renewable energy companies,  can also help connect manufacturers with partners in the supply chain.