Nov 9, 2011
Emily McMackin
Emily McMackin
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Clean Tech: Where the Green Jobs Are Growing

Energy: Power wind turbines over lake

As job growth makes a slow comeback in the aftermath of the Recession, communities across the country are looking for the next big industry sector that will revive their economic prospects and put them on the map. Sustainability seems like an obvious choice. After all, it is the future, right?

From solar to biofuels, cities in all markets are eager to grab a piece of the environmental “pie” and develop a niche within the green industry that will attract a steady stream of jobs. Some are even investing in the possibility. But how bankable is sustainability?

That’s the question tackled in a recently released Brookings Institution study titled, “Sizing the Clean Economy,” that explores the size, growth and geography of the “clean,” or green, economy. Defining a green job as one that “produces a good or service that benefits the environment,” the study takes a hard look at the 2.7 million green jobs in the U.S. to answer: Where is green growing?

Clean-tech start-ups in the wind energy segment have been particularly profitable, adding jobs at the annual rate of 14.9 perfect between 2003 and 2010. Green architecture — despite the decline in both real estate and demand for environmentally-friendly timber, appliances, lighting, ect. — also continues to be a hot spot for growth.

Not surprisingly, the biggest growth spurt came from clean energy and energy efficiency-enhancing technologies, which added jobs at twice the rate of the national economy between 2003 and 2010 and garnered the most venture capital over the past decade.

An interactive map tracking renewable energy jobs by segment, metropolitan area and state shows the biggest growth in California, New York, Washington, Oregon and South Carolina. Metro areas with more than 2,500 green jobs range from bigger markets like New York, NY-NJ-PA, where wind  and solar energy has taken off, to smaller ones like Greenville-Maudlin-Easley, SC, where professional environmental services and recycling and reuse are spurring growth.

So back to the original question: Is sustainability a sustainable job creation strategy? Well, it depends on your geography, your resources and the type of service or product you are offering. Check out the study, based on the Brookings-Battelle Clean Economy Database, to see how your region competes.

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