Growing the Green Economy Blog

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.