Local Chambers and the Military

Raleigh Chamber Hosts Panel with Retired Marine Corps General on Energy Innovation, Regional Economy and National Security 

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a groundbreaking discussion with Lt. General Richard C. Zilmer, USMC (Ret.), about the close ties between energy innovation, local economic development and national security.

One conclusion from the discussion: Local chambers with military bases in their communities have an important role to play in the clean energy discussions happening at the local, state and national levels. With growing numbers of military bases prioritizing energy efficiency and renewable energy, local chambers are increasingly seeking to engage their member businesses in clean energy projects.

North Carolina has benefited tremendously from energy innovation and will continue to reap huge economic rewards. During the panel discussion, chambers said that connecting local businesses to the new energy priorities of the military bases is a natural next step.

Last week’s conversation — which was also sponsored by the Research Triangle Regional Partnership Clean Tech Cluster and Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy — demonstrated the power of local chambers to convene stakeholders such as the military, businesses, universities, regional business clusters and government officials for important regional and national conversations. The meeting drew approximately 25 participants including representatives from the local chambers of Raleigh, Morrisville, Asheville and Chapel Hill Carrboro as well from the governor’s office, the North Carolina Department of Commerce and clean tech businesses.

Zilmer, who served in the Marine Corps for 36 years, stressed the connection between energy innovation and national security, a link he first saw in 2006 when he served as commanding general of allied forces in Iraq. At the time, Zilmer noted the connection between American casualties and convoys of fuel supply vehicles. He issued a “Priority 1” rapid resource response to the US Marine Corp for great deployment of renewable energy on the battlefield. The DOD has broad goals to power the military with renewable energy while saving energy at military bases around the country.

The panel concluded that the research triangle area in North Carolina is well positioned to benefit economically as the military and the rest of the country moves toward efficiency and renewable sources of power . With three first-tier research universities and a smart grid and solar industry cluster, North Carolina has already received a $2.7 billion boost over the last six years from clean energy, according to a report by RTI International.

General Zilmer’s Memorial Day column in the News and Observer can be found here. The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce can be found online here. The Research Triangle Regional Partnership is here.