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Piggybacking on Ontario's green ambitions

As I noted a week ago, Ontario is planning to go green in a big way. Sweeping legislation has been introduced that's expected to pass in slam-dunk fashion that, among other things, is projected to create up to 50,000 green-sector jobs and allow the province to leapfrog any states south of the border that fancy themselves sustainable showcases. Business, labor, greens and farmers all seem to be on board.

In short, our neighbors to the north want to to be the top (green) dog in North America, and see both economic and environmental benefits to being so.

What's in it for us here in Western New York?

I posed that question to some green and economic development types, and what I heard back confirms my own gut feeling. That is to say ...

WE NEED TO GET IN ON THE ACTION!

Or, as Jim Allen, head of the Amherst IDA put it: "This could be an exciting opportunity to revitalize the Great Lake states' economies and as such we should pursue it aggressively."

Let's hear more from Allen, who, for my money, is one of the best mainstream economic development thinkers in the region. 

"All of the Great Lake border states should explore this initiative with Ontario province to determine whether a joint venture would be possible. 

"If all of the US border states and the province of Ontario were to make a collaborative effort to achieve the goals imagined in the Ontario proposal, the Great Lakes region would have a competitive advantage over most other regions throughout the world. 

"An initiative such as this could be a first step in creating the mega-region that Richard Florida has talked about." 

Next up is Dave Bradley, perhaps the brainiest of the wind power experts we have in the region:

"This appears to be a seismic shift in the North American renewables scene. To quote a famous saying.....'It's huge, Buffalo.'

"The GEA is a very logical response to this bad economic news.

"If only Ontario does this, and combined with Quebecs huge RFP policy (which produces the same electricity prices, but mandates production of equipment in Quebec in clever ways that NYPA might want to study), the new renewable energy center for the Great Lakes will reside in
Quebec and Ontario.

"After all, they have steel, copper, aluminum, chemicals and glass production, cement production/resources, a sophisticated workforce and industrial infrastructure, lots of workers
willing to work (and no health insurance problems - single payer, government run, no private insurance stuff), and huge electricity demand centers in metro Toronto and Montreal, plus lots of other sites like London, Sarnia, Windsor, Sault St Marie, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, etc.

"I'm jealous. Good beer, and now good renewable energy law. How can NY hope to stay competitive? Well, if you can't beat them, join 'em."

Last, but not least, is Walter Simspon, co-founder of the Western New York Climate Action Coalition:

"The renewable energy and green jobs proposal under consideration in Ontario puts claims of New York energy leadership to rest and may have the unfortunate effect of sucking green jobs north of the border unless leaders in Albany and Buffalo respond with similarly aggressive policy changes and programs. 

"It is time that NY seriously consider feed-in tariffs to accelerate renewable energy development. 

"And locally, we need to see Mayor Brown, our WNY state delegation and Rep. Brian Higgins step up to the plate and commit to attracting a major wind turbine builder to Buffalo before all regional wind energy manufacturing is in Ontario. 

"The bottom line is that we are not doing enough to switch to sustainable energy technologies and address global warming. One result of that failure may be that our much hoped for green economy does not take off, hurting the economic recovery and our hurting pocketbooks."

My own take on this is that this can't be entrusted to the usual suspects in the political, business and economic development community. They're not going to get anything done, they probably don't even see the need.

Nope, the people who are smart on this issue need to act quickly to piece together at least the framework of a plan and start pushing it. Starting, like, now. Step 1 is weighing in here.

tagged

Economic Development | Green
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