by By Mark Edlen and Dennis Wilder
Saturday March 28, 2009, 10:00 AM
This is one of two responses to The Sunday Oregonian’s Commentary cover story: “Green jobs: Parallel pathways hold best chance for both to succeed”
As is often said, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
Oregon is better positioned than any other state to extend its well deserved lead in developing sustainable solutions and “green jobs” directly into a workable national solution to today’s economic crisis. This approach will dramatically impact our economy, a generation of family wage jobs, our national security and our environment.
From our original bottle bill, public beach access, land use policies and forward-thinking alternative transportation solutions, Oregon is regarded as a national leader in developing creative solutions for difficult challenges.
Green jobs span our entire ecosystem, ranging from energy generation and water conservation to manufacturing, design and construction, to our farms and food supply. They include jobs for highly skilled, hourly employees to highly educated, four-year college graduates — all providing living wages with secure benefits.
In Oregon, “green jobs” have evolved over the last decade through a combination of private and public efforts based on grassroots collaboration that have resulted in innovative solutions. Examples include our voter approved creation of the Energy Trust of Oregon to fund energy conservation and private investment in renewable energy, our Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program that has attracted major solar manufacturers Sloaix and Solar World, and wind manufacturers and developers Vestas and Iberdrola Renewables — all bringing thousands of high paying “green jobs.” As a result of this strategic effort, Oregon is now the largest solar photovoltaic manufacturer in the country.
The “green jobs” movement is not limited to new international companies moving to Oregon. It is all-inclusive and has enabled our local companies to grow and prosper. Nike, a local company with global reach, continues to re-engineer their design and manufacturing process in an effort to be more sustainable, more cost-competitive and more profitable — thus ensuring future Oregon jobs. Jeld Wen and Collins Companies, both local major wood products manufactures; Neil Kelly Companies, a major remodeler and manufacturer of sustainable cabinets; and Rejuvenation are also part of the “green collar” economy.
So are countless service providers advising local, national and international companies on sustainable issues including Bright Works, Green Building Services, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, GBD Architects, SERA Architects, Glumac International, Interface, Hoffman Construction, Howard S. Wright Construction and many others.
More importantly, these companies and their suppliers have created a market advantage around their “green” expertise, which has resulted in the employment of tens of thousands of highly skilled Oregonians. But it goes deeper: through the purchase of products and services from other Oregon companies, a truly sustainable economic infrastructure has been created here in Oregon supporting employment at multiple skill levels.
Many suggest that a deep recession is a time to pull back and retrench. We recognize that Oregon has many funding needs ranging from those who are less fortunate to our schools. We argue that these are exactly the reasons to redouble our efforts in creating “green” jobs.
These jobs create a future and provide a reason for our children to graduate. They provide employment in manufacturing and the skilled trades for graduating high school seniors, create technical employment opportunities for our community college graduates and help secure “green” jobs in numerous fields including design, finance and engineering for four-year college graduates.
Acting on our leadership role, Oregonians have the opportunity to not only create large numbers of “green” jobs, but also to export our embedded expertise beyond Oregon’s borders. By doing so we will create the opportunity to establish new companies, create long term career opportunities, generate income for Oregonians and Oregon companies, and increase tax revenue to support our way of life, our schools and our future.
Mark Edlen is the Chief Executive Officer for Gerding Edlen Development, Inc. and Dennis Wilder is the Senior Vice President for Gerding Edlen Development, Inc.