States are not waiting for Washington D.C. to move forward to create the clean energy economy.
How much can clean energy development grow a region's economy? Quite a lot, as a Toledo Blade newspaper reporter and the Ohio Governor's regional representative got to find out in a day-long tour earlier this month by the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy in partnership with the Paulding Chamber of Commerce, school district superintendents, and economic development officials.
The day-long tour spotlighted a region of Ohio where several wind farms are already constructed and have been operating for several years. It provided a close look at how economic activity from wind power reaches far beyond the boundaries of wind farms into businesses, school districts, local governments, and community philanthropies. The wind farms benefit communities throughout Ohio that are located along the wind supply chain.
One of the most intriguing stops during the tour for Toledo Blade Reporter, Tom Henry, was an up-close look at Vantage's Nacelle Wind Power Generator Simulator.
"One of the highlights of the visit there was an $80,000, micro-sized wind turbine simulator that could help train future operators, or at least whet their appetites for mechanical science and physics," says Henry. The technician training program is right on time - since one of the top new jobs in the county is a wind turbine technician with an average salary of $54.360 according to U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
Another highlight of the tour included a visit to the new $4.5 million community center built by the Lincolnview School District with revenue from wind investments. Lincolnview is receiving $400,000 annually for 20 years from wind revenue. Superintendent Jeff Snyder noted that these steady payments allow the school district to plan for the long-term and to fund ambitious projects like the community center.
In between stops, the tour also highlighted businesses receiving spin-off economic activity from wind farm construction and maintenance--including a hotel, cement plan, auto dealership, trucking company, and more.
See the Toledo Blade story and video here.
Earlier this month, Josh Bass, President of the Currituck Chamber of Commerce, traveled from the far northeast corner of the state to Huntersville, NC, to tour the SAERTEX manufacturing facility and participate in a strategy session. The SAERTEX facility leads the world in the production of the high-tech and light-weight materials used to produce turbine blades.
“New Bedford should absolutely be the national cluster for offshore wind” as a center of operations and workforce training, said Derek Santos, Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. “There should be no reason why folks aren’t trained in New Bedford for projects all over the eastern coast of the United States.”
When Amazon announced last month that it would build a second wind farm in northwest Ohio, Jon Cross, president and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber & Business Alliance and Director of Economic Development, eloquently put the opportunity in perspective:
"Big projects don’t “always have to happen in big cities,” Cross said. “They can happen in small communities like ours, courthouse communities that are an important engine of Ohio’s economy.”
Ask Peggy Emerson, Executive Director of the Paulding Chamber of Commerce, what she thinks of the new Amazon wind farm going up in her county, and she’ll tell you:
“Paulding Chamber of Commerce is thrilled to celebrate all of the renewable energy projects that we have going on. These are great ways for us to develop the economic benefits locally, and not only in our county, but the counties around us as well.”
From a Columbus suburb (home to a new wind-powered Amazon data center) to the small village of Paulding (where a new wind farm will begin generating electricity in 2017) local chamber leaders trekked to Ohio’s capitol this month to tell Gov. Kasich and lawmakers how their communities have benefited from wind energy.
Chamber leaders demonstrated interest in state policies that support clean energy development. When asked in an informal survey if they agreed with Gov. Kasich’s recent comment that it is “unacceptable” for Ohio to maintain a freeze on renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, 90 percent of chamber leaders said yes.
The Caro Chamber of Commerce says that its hometown of Caro, Michigan, has a “Norman Rockwell feel with modern amenities.” Among some of the most modern of those amenities are the turbines from nearby wind farms that are steadily transforming the region.
The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce in Michigan has scored a rare triple victory: it helped launch and grow a new business that educates its community on an important economic development project while generating new tourism spending. And it has done so on the topic of energy generation, typically not a topic that draws crowds.
In 2010, the North Myrtle Beach Chamber helped build a coalition of local wind energy champions with a plan to bring clean energy investment, jobs, innovation, and statewide recognition to the town. The effort paid off: North Myrtle Beach became the first place in South Carolina to host a grid-connected wind turbine.
Early last year, the New Bedford Economic Development Council established a special wind energy center to boost efforts to develop the offshore wind industry in this southeastern Massachusetts town. Last weekend, the Mayor of New Bedford told a roomful of local chamber of commerce executives that wind energy will transform his city’s economy.