Lone Star Clean Tech

Ian Scott on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9:35:00 am 

An article in this week’s Time highlights the emergence of Austin, Texas as one of the nation’s premier alternative energy and clean tech hubs. While the author plays up the political angle in this story – green tech in a red state – I read a shining example of smart economic development. Austin’s clean tech story is a lesson is effective cluster strategy, public private partnership, talented workforce, strong community and building off existing assets.  Here are key excerpts:

For Austin, high tech had to come before clean tech. The city has long been a science-and-technology hub, thanks to the presence of the sprawling main campus of the University of Texas, with a student body of 50,000. In the mid-1980s one of those students was Michael Dell, who founded his eponymous computer company in a University of Texas dorm room before moving Dell to a sprawling campus north of Austin. Around the same time, the federal government and U.S. semi-conductor manufacturers launched a research consortium — based in Austin — called Sematech, pooling public and private investment to compete with Japan, which was threatening to dominate the semiconductor industry.

Sematech and Dell helped create a high-tech boom in Austin through the 1990s, luring tens of thousands of talented engineers who came for the jobs and stayed for the Austin lifestyle … So as clean tech began to heat up in the early part of the past decade, Austin was a logical place for start-ups and entrepreneurs to set up shop. An experienced technical workforce was already available, ready to shift from manufacturing computer chips to building solar panels.

"We like the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and there's just a ton of talent here that you can't get in Illinois," says Joe Scarci, SolarBridge's vice president of marketing. "It's a great place to recruit."

Read the full article here.

Of course, none of this is news to the economic development team at the Austin Chamber of Commerce.  Clean energy is one of their focus industry segments.  They know that growth in the clean tech cluster is as much about smart strategy as good luck.  And they’ve been getting good press coverage about this for years.  Check out all the great info on their Clean Energy webpage, pay special attention to the Pecan Street Project.

Tags: talented workforce, alternative energy, clean tech, cluster strategy, Economic Development, green tech, public private partnership

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Battle Won in Indiana

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

Despite controversy over Chrysler ads and middle fingers, the Super Bowl was a resounding success. The game was close, the weather was good, and viewership set records.  Indianapolis can be proud of their first time hosting the big game. With all the football coverage, you may have missed some other important news coming out of Indiana last week:

Battle Won in Indiana

It took Governor Mitch Daniels barely two hours last Wednesday to sign Right-to-Work legislation into law. In doing so, he makes Indiana the first state in more than 10 years, and the first state ever in the industrial Midwest to make union dues optional for workers in union jobs. Mike Landram and the Fort Wayne Chamber were strong proponents of the bill, making multiple trips to testify at the capital and rallying grassroots support. In addition to an online petition, they compiled a great Right-to-Works facts page on their website:

Tags: Fort Wayne Chamber, Indiana, right-to-work, Super Bowl

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New ACCE Partner: Infintech

Brad Holt on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 8:40:00 am 

ACCE's newest official corporate sponsor and partner is Infintech, a chamber-friendly, debit and credit card processing company that can save the average chamber 40% on its credit card processing costs. Here are some interesting facts about this new member of the ACCE family:

  • CEO Ryan Rybolt had his first job as an intern with one of the greats in the chamber field, John Williams, who headed the Cincinnati chamber for many years.
  • More than 80 chambers & associations have already embraced this company and are finding considerable success with it.
  • The Infintech program will permit chambers to earn sizeable amounts of non-dues revenue as their members use Infintech for their credit card processing needs.
  • Infintech is in the top 1 percent of its industry in customer satisfaction levels.

Contact Ryan and his team to find out more at (513) 395-9495 or send an email.

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Chicago's Jerry Roper Has His Day

Tania Kohut on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 8:30:00 am 

January was a big month for one chamber president.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed Jan. 25 as Jerry Roper Day in Chicago. But it didn’t stop there.

Later that evening, Jerry Roper, the Chicagoland Chamber’s president and CEO, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant support and dedication as a founding member of Chicago Gateway Green. The organization is devoted to greening and beautifying Chicago’s expressways, gateways and neighborhoods. In celebration of his service as the organization’s chairman for a decade and for his contributions to Chicago Gateway Green over the past 25 years, an expressway garden at the Kennedy/Edens Expressways Junction was named the "Gerald J. Roper Gateway."

Roper was honored for his extensive civic involvement throughout Chicagoland, as well as his contributions to the region's leading business and entrepreneurial communities. As the president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce for 18 years, Roper has been a spirited leader and advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Illinois. During that time, the chamber earned 5-star accreditation from the U. S. Chamber of Commerce for its sound policies, effective organizational procedures, and positive impact on the region’s business climate.

Click here to see a video montage of Jerry Roper played at the event. Click here to see a video tribute from Mayor Daley.

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Northern Virginia Chambers Oppose Eminent Domain Bill

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

A state constitutional amendment to protect private property rights is one step closer to earning a spot on November’s ballot.

Last week, the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 13-2 in favor of SJ 3 and sent the bill to the full Senate. The legislation tightens the definition of public use and requires just compensation for owners whose property has been taken using eminent domain.

The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership, a joint effort of the Dulles Regional, Greater Reston and Loudoun County chambers, argues in a press release that the suggested restrictions could crush efforts by local jurisdictions to extend their infrastructure – water, sewer, gas lines and roads – to support economic development initiatives.

The bills before the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates would restrict the use of eminent domain to public uses. They all use basically the same language: “That the General Assembly shall pass no law whereby private property, the right to which is fundamental, shall be damaged or taken except for public use.”

The chamber partnership “supports responsible use of eminent domain in instances where the rights of property owners are balanced with the rights of entities with existing eminent domain authority.”

“In the current unprecedented economic climate, Virginia can ill afford to negatively impact its competitiveness with other states in attracting economic development that could provide much needed jobs for Virginia residents,” Mark Ingrao, president of the Greater Reston Chamber, said in the release.

For more information: Northern Virginia Chambers Oppose Eminent Domain Bill
Smith Mountain Eagle: Va. Eminent Domain Legislation Clears another Hurdle

Tags: eminent domain, land use

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State of the States

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, February 6, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 

Last month, Stateline did a series on the State of the States. Click the links below for more detailed information on what 2012 holds for the 50 states in the union.

Will the GOP Moderate Its Approach?
Republicans are pushing an ambitious agenda, but seem to be doing it in a less confrontational way this year, wary that the voters will be watching and that partisan finger-pointing may cause them to lose their majorities.

What to Expect from Washington
A long siege of deadlock and dysfunction in Washington has left states frustrated and wondering what to expect from the federal government in 2012. About the only thing they know for sure is that it is not going to be a year of generosity

The Medicaid Problem
Continuing sluggishness in the economy means that Medicaid rolls are still rising. But with the federal stimulus program over, support from Washington is no longer going up along with enrollments. The result is that Medicaid spending is ballooning, despite deep cuts states have made over the past three years to make the federal-state health insurance program for the poor less generous.

Labor Fights Back
Labor is learning to live by a new set of rules governing collective bargaining and other matters, the product of new laws in nearly a dozen states. But labor also  is fighting back in some states, hoping to reverse some of what was lost and in some cases to exact revenge on political opponents.

A Better Budget Year
There are asterisks on all this positive news. While state revenues are generally up, they fell so far during the recession that most states have not caught up to where they were before. But for the first time in five years, some state legislatures are positioned to put money toward top priorities rather than cut, cut, cut.

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