Monday, July 21, 2008

Economic Development Administration Webcast
on Green Economic Development

I hope that some of you got to see this; I'm also hoping it gets archived online for future reference. EDA is showing some excellent leadership here. It was also well-structured, so it was easy to follow.

It definitely had some good news (sustainability is a great way to create jobs) and it definitely tells us what directions that the Dept of Commerce is favoring, regardless of who wins in November. If anyone you know might be looking for federal $$ in the future, this gives us some big clues for what will get funded.

The broadcast was anchored by Deputy Commerce Secretary Benjamin Erulkar who led off by talking about EDA's fast-growing interest in alternate energy projects and preference for green buildings.

Panelists included Thomas Darden of Cherokee Investment Partners who invest in brownfields [Note: so any of you are doing brownfield projects, CIP might be worth contacting!] and Ted Wysocki from Chicago's LEED Council whose interest & expertise is in creating "green-collar" jobs.

They also had interviews with Paul Farmer, head of the American Planning Association, and Nancy McKeever, the sustainable energy chief for the California Energy Commission.

McKeever mentioned the record amounts of VC $ being poured into green energy. Darden sees this trend as having legs, demand is still growing (that is, greener energy & energy efficiency are still in the "no-brainer" stage).

Farmer pointed out that saving money is always a plus. He sees telecommuting & cycling is something that we need to plan for explicitly, especially with the awful costs of commuting these days. He noted that this is easily tied into the always-present demand for improving quality of life. However, energy efficiency is the key lever right now.

Wysocki followed that with a persuasive discussion of the need for new kinds of training (not just content but methods) to develop green-collar jobs. For you CWI & CSI fans, they are working very closely with a local community college. It was clear that he didn't see such training as something we're good at, but we can learn if we invest the time. [Note: the WIRED grant effort in southern Idaho has this kind of 21st -century training as a key focus!]

He also mentioned a very current example, Chicago's re-purposing of a factory into the new Green Exchange, a mini-Merchandise Mart where every tenant is a green operation of some kind. Please, please take a look at its website [ ] as this is a model that Idaho cities could readily emulate.

(Have you clicked on yet?? )

The participants then offered their closing thoughts on the key leverage points for moving forward. McKeever argued that green collar jobs require explicitly tying all economic development topics to sustainabilty. [Ed. Note: Here's a link to some PPTS on the essence of sustainable economic development. The short version? True sustainability meets the entire "triple bottom line": Environmentally, Socially and Economically Sustainable - you need all three. ]

Farmer warned there's a lot of lip service being paid [a/k/a "green-washing"]. His two big opportunities here were (a) it's a perfect way to engage youth in development and (b) an opportunity to "audit" everything we do -- re-think how we do everything. Wysocki agreed, arguing the need to simultaneously pursuing multiple angles on alternative energy and energy efficiency [how can we do things better/faster/cheaper?] There's no home, there's no business that can't improve cost-effectively.

[Note for IEDA members: For those of you at the last IEDA conference, you'll remember the panelists that Hank Artis brought in who showed how any of us, even at home, can save serious money.]

Darden noted that for many of these new developments, we're still very early on the learning curve, so current costs will go down and go down enough that it's worth helping along [tax credits, etc.] For example, a Platinum LEED building will cost you significantly more up front, but over the lifecycle of a building that's but a small fraction of the cost. [Note for IEDA: Again, we heard exactly that at the last IEDA meeting.] Darden also urged businesses to take a long look at the ISO 14001 standards as a great guideline for moving forward on energy efficiency, etc. Wysocki closed by reiterating the vital need for training & re-training managers & employees alike to best take advantage of the many big opportunities in an increasingly-greener world.

Nice 30-minute webcast -- more info at the EDA's website.


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