EDA Newsletter

Volume 2; Issue 12

In this Issue:

Message from Assistant Secretary John Fernandez

The U.S. Economic Development Administration is looking to the New Year as a time of challenge and transformation. We will continue our work in implementing President Obama's policy priorities with efforts to accelerate job growth and lay a foundation for robust economic growth. Because of the economic challenges we face, we are building a new framework for sustainable economic growth that meets the needs of the 21st Century. In the coming months we will begin to lay the groundwork for this new structure — one that embraces collaborative, integrated, regional approaches and that recognizes that regional and cross-functional collaboration among government agencies, private, non-profit, and public sectors is essential.

We will be sharing with you more about our approach to economic development and how the EDA can partner with you in your community's economic development efforts. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that the New Year brings, and to our work in helping to cultivate a thriving U.S. economy.

I wish you all a safe, happy and prosperous New Year.

Secratory Fernandez's Signature

Cleaner, Greener: DOC Leads Efforts for Environmental Sustainability and Economic Growth

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has played an integral part in the U.S. Department of Commerce's mission to advance economic growth and job opportunities for the American people, especially in the area of environmental sustainability. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), EDA delivered $27 million to promote green businesses and jobs which, according to grantee estimates, is expected to create or save more than 4,700 jobs and leverage $267 million in private investment.

EDA Recovery Act grants relating to green jobs include:

  • Construction of a Green Building Technology and Alternative Energy Systems Training Center, at Delaware Technical and Community College to train former automotive workers for new jobs in green industries;
  • Renovation of a school building in Kennedy, Minn., for a business incubator that will foster companies in the alternative energy field;
  • Construction of a new reservoir to provide safe and reliable water to the business community in Freemont, Ohio, including its largest employer, the Heinz Company, and;
  • Construction of a new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified headquarters for ACCION in Albuquerque, N.M., which serves small businesses through micro-lending and technical assistance.

These investments as well as 10 other EDA Recovery Act grants are spurring economic growth and fostering business creation that will lead America's competitiveness in the growing clean energy and energy efficiency markets.

America's competitiveness is driven by our ability to create and innovate, and other agencies within the Department of Commerce are also focused on economic growth through environmental sustainability and global competitiveness. With only six of the top 30 alternative energy companies based in the U.S., the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a new pilot program last week that is designed to accelerate the patent process for green technology inventions. The USPTO's Green Tech pilot program will allow inventors who have already submitted patent applications for green technologies to have their submissions receive an expedited review. The pilot is geared toward 3,000 of the most promising patents which could drastically alter the way energy is utilized and lead to vast job creation. Additionally, USPTO's efforts will help improve speed to market of green technologies, an essential component in emerging green markets.

At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), multiple efforts are underway to monitor climate change and advance the information that scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses and others are using to understand and assess climate issues throughout the country and across the globe. Climate networks such as the U.S. Climate Reference Network (CRN), which manages the system that tracks the national average changes in temperature and precipitation trends and the Historical Climatology Network (HCN), a regional system of 1,000 monitoring stations that collect climate, weather and precipitation measurements are serving as key elements to address climate issues. Also, the Cooperative Weather Observer Program is a network of more than 11,000 weather enthusiasts, scattered across the country, providing crucial data to NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS). These networks enhance the data and highlight climate trends that can better aid businesses, industry and farmers and help guide resoource managers with critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets. Additionally, NOAA's efforts are setting up a much needed infrastructure for climate information that could open up business opportunities for new and existing entrepreneurs.

As companies and government agencies continue to pursue opportunities to mitigate climate change and build a cleaner economy, it is essential for economic development practitioners to recognize and tap into the trends of a cleaner and greener economy. New projects and ventures should focus on:

  • more efficient use and conservation of energy resources;
  • the discovery and development of renewable energy resources, and;
  • the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no single path for going green. Enabling and implementing green opportunities at the regional level is critical to our nation's economic success. Economic developers can work closely with regions to recognize that multi-tiered approaches to environmental sustainability must be taken for communities to reap the benefits.

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How do Businesses Become Lean and Green?

Do you want to start a green business or make your existing business more sustainable? Are you looking for how to do it and where to start? Where and how do you learn about sustainable business practices and the opportunities and pitfalls associated with sustainable business?

Entrepreneurs and business owners across the country are looking toward the future and facing the dilemmas associated with these very real questions. Not surprisingly, thousands of aspiring and existing entrepreneurs are testing a variety of tools for learning the basics of sustainable business, including the popular do-it-yourself model, by taking a class, attending a workshop or learning about sustainability from books or online resources.

Yet, since entrepreneurs often learn best from other entrepreneurs, many business owners are embracing new business networks focused on green or sustainable business practices and issues. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of such networks popping up across the globe. In the U.S., they range from social mixer events, such as those sponsored by the growing number of "Green Drinks" groups. Started in a London pub in 1989, "Green Drinks" has evolved into a global self-organizing network of people with an interest in learning more about environmental sustainability while also having fun. Local networks operate in nearly every U.S. state, with more than 641 active groups worldwide.

Networks focused more directly on business issues are also emerging. Many groups focus on a single community or a single sector. For example, the construction industry is aggressively embracing green building practices, and, as a result, several new green building networks are emerging. At the national level, groups like the Green Building Institute and the U.S. Green Building Council are generating attention. Other national networks combine business training and collaboration with advocacy. E2, the Environmental Entrepreneurs, works with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental action organization with 1.3 million members and online activists, to advocate issues that affect the environment and environmental entrepreneurs.

Green business certification is an even more formal approach to learning the latest trends in sustainable business practices. In general, the field of green certification, pioneered by the well known LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, is booming. Following the pattern set by LEED, many of the early certification efforts focused on issues of design and energy use. Other efforts, such as Green Seal, seek to combat the practice of greenwashing, a practice in which firms erroneously claim that their products or policies are environmentally friendly, by promoting rigorous global standards for green products.

Meanwhile, a whole host of small business certification efforts are also being introduced. These programs focus heavily on energy use, but also seek to introduce other sustainable business practices. Green Plus, developed by the North Carolina-based Institute for Sustainable Development, is one of the more expansive of these small business education and certification programs. The Green Plus program is built on partnerships with local groups, such as Chambers of Commerce or economic development organizations, which sponsor the specialized Green Plus training and education programs for their members. Firms can opt to use the Green Plus How-To Guide, or they can pursue formal certification. All participating firms also develop their own in-house diagnostic survey that helps them benchmark their performance and identify problem areas.

The Green Plus model, and related efforts, seek to get companies focused on the triple bottom line. They envision that firms can do the right thing for people and place, including their employees, their customers and their communities. But, the green business movement will never succeed unless it also improves performance — the company bottom line. These programs hope to succeed by combining a commitment to people, place and performance.

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Green and Clean Clusters

As business growth in green, sustainable and cleantech sectors has accelerated, more communities, regions, and states are targeting green industries as part of their core business cluster strategies. This new emphasis makes sense as green industries are poised for enormous growth as well as the prospect of providing higher-wage jobs. As another added benefit, support for green industries can be an important tool for revitalizing local manufacturing. Emphasis on the development of green industries is also essential to addressing the challenges of climate change. In many regions, support for cleantech or green business clusters generates a triple bottom line — it promotes economic growth, while meeting key social goals like job creation and environmental sustainability.

Cities and regions are seeking to nurture cleantech clusters in a variety of ways. Many cities have developed cleantech-focused business incubators. In fact, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory now sponsors a learning network of cleantech incubators located across the U.S. The Austin, Texas, clean energy incubator has operated since 2001, and supports firms in fields ranging from geothermal energy to internet-controlled irrigation. Austin recently received the top ranking by Sustainlane Government, an online sustainability best practices network for state and local government, for its ability to incubate cleantech firms. And, Bowling Green State University was recently recognized by the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) as the winner of the 2009 Award of Excellence in Economic Development Research for their spatial method in locating Ohio's Wind Energy Cluster.

Other regions have embraced more comprehensive strategies. The Seattle region's Prosperity Partnership has helped build and support a strong presence in cleantech. This effort began in 2005 with an initial research project to map out the state of cleantech in the Puget Sound region. Subsequently, a number of follow-on initiatives were created from the research, including the creation of the Washington Cleantech Alliance. The Alliance is involved in a host of activities to support the cluster. In recent months, it has sponsored a competition for the hottest cleantech start-ups and has also released a documentary film profiling local cleantech leaders. And, most importantly, the region is starting to spawn some exciting new companies. Seattle-based Hydrovolts is generating a lot of regional buzz. The firm makes floating turbines that can generate hydropower while floating in canals, rivers and other waterways. Hydrovolts recently won the 2009 Cleantech Open National Sustainability Award as the nation's best sustainable business. LivinGreen Materials is another prominent new venture, producing dye-sensitized crystals that will increase the efficiency of solar panels by 50 percent.

A similar cluster initiative is underway in San Diego. Started in 2007, the San Diego Cleantech Initiative supports efforts to help attract cleantech firms to the region and it also provides specialized training and technical assistance to existing firms who are seeking to introduce more sustainable business practices. The region has also spawned a host of related organizations, such as Cleantech San Diego, a network for local firms, and the Eco Investment Club, which brings together investors with an interest in the cluster.

Regions like Seattle and San Diego have enjoyed great success in designing cluster-based approaches to nurture green and cleantech-related companies. Most observers expect to see similar strategies emerge across the U.S. in coming years.

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EDA is continually looking for economic development success stories and best practices that can be shared with economic development professionals across the nation. If you have a success story - either EDA funded or not - that you'd like to share, please email the subject and a brief description to lpangretic@eda.doc.gov for possible publication in a future issue of EDA Update.

New EDA Research Projects

Crossing the Next Regional Frontier
[Web site]
This tool helps a region guide strategic conversations about where to invest scarce resources to build prosperity for the next generation. More specifically, this will enable regional leaders to focus on two sets of core assets that create prosperity: brainpower and innovation.

NGA's State Green Economy Profiles

The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) has commissioned Collaborative Economics Inc. (CEI) to prepare a profile of each state's "green" economy. The data is designed to provide a detailed, empirical account of each state's existing assets across multiple green sectors and serve as a foundation for identifying future growth areas and related needs. For further information and to view the map, visit the Web site.


January 31-February 2, 2010

IEDC 2010 Leadership Summit, The Woodlands, TX [Web site]

February 21-23, 2010

NARC's 2010 Nation Conference of Regions, Washington, DC [Web site]

March 1-3, 2010

NADO's 2010 Washington Policy Conference, Washington, DC [Web site]

April 10-13, 2010

APA's National Conference, New Orleans, LA [Web site]

April 18-20, 2010

IEDC's 2010 Federal Forum, Alexandria, VA [Web site]

November 7-9, 2010

UEDA 2010 Summit, Reno, NV