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.

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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.