Green Technology is Essential to Nevada’s Economic Recovery

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The big story emerging from recent business forums in Reno is that our community is impatient and motivated like no time before to offer solutions to Nevada’s economic malaise.

These actions coincide with a new, tax-averse governor and no economic recovery in sight. Recently at two such events, Reno2020 and Directions 2010, concerned citizens listened to business leaders recap the grim events of the last three years and then offer recommendations for a way forward. Solutions emerging from both events were:

• Maintain an adequately funded public educational system, with better integration K through university, plus tighter alignment of university R&D to foster commercialization of new technologies.

• A restructured tax system some call “revenue neutral,” that is less reliant on taxing tourism that has historically been subject to extreme variances.

• Re-focus our work force to leverage Nevada’s renewable energy resources for job creation and to facilitate the transition away from carbon-based electricity and fuel.

The Reno2020 forum, sponsored by the Reno Gazette Journal and chaired by executive editor Beryl Love, took place Feb. 2 and was the third in a series of their events that explored the role of green energy, among other solutions, to address Nevada’s recession. The first event November 17 focused exclusively on clean tech and was reviewed previously in my column.

The second meeting (Jan. 19) opened the subject to a broader array of economic solutions, with chairmen and committees selected to make recommendations at the Feb. 2 event. Here’s how Mr. Love characterized the success of the RGJ effort. “With Reno 2020,… (our) goal was to identify a vision for economic stability and the path to get us there. So I'm extremely pleased that our teams were able to link job creation, education and the state's tax structure to a list of action items that have broad support across the community.”

At the Reno2020 forum, causes and solutions to Nevada’s economic crisis were broken down into four areas, each with a local business leader as chairman and each supported by a committee of concerned local business leaders. Here are the four committees and their suggestions, with emphasis on two that addressed the role of green energy. Details of all four presentations can be found here.

1. Green Energy chair Tom Clark of Holland and Hart, stated that for a local green culture to emerge, business leaders must work together to broaden community understanding and support. Here are the 10 year goals from his committee.

• Have a vibrant green culture in Nevada

• Have a diversity of utility scale wind, solar, geothermal and biomass projects

• Processes to adapt domestic & foreign ideas to this marketplace

• University system graduating a “green” workforce

• Manufacturers, R&D and developers made familiar with N Nevada resources

• Programs and incentives for small scale wind and solar projects

• Consistent policies and laws to reduce risk to financing

• An educated public that supports programs for energy conservation.

2. Economic Innovation chair Darik Volpa, CEO of Understand.com, sees Nevada’s opportunity more broadly, saying, ”Our approach was to offer a range of action items, including ways for downtown Reno to improve its “brand” to business and visitors, as well as ideas to improve commercialization efforts at UNR. Our team hopes this serves as a call-to-arms for all of us in Northern Nevada.” Here are the action items suggested to promote economic innovation.

• Recognize that cost per Kwh for wind and solar is far higher than coal and natural gas, so look to all forms of energy for job creation such as manufacturing, R&D -- and converting CA’s garbage into ethanol.

• Develop non-energy industries such as: licensing, financial services and call centers.

• Build entrepreneurism and commercialization into UNR’s curriculum, coordinating their tech transfer office with “statesmen” across depts and private sector experience

• Develop in-state private equity program

• Build, protect the Reno Brand, as more than an arch and a place to recreate, but also a business-friendly place for entrepreneurs and creative free agents.

• Streamline business development agencies, address legislative restrictions to attracting businesses and model what successful states (Utah) are doing.

3. Fiscal Policy chair Dick Bostdorff, consultant and adjunct faculty at UNR. See the RGJ link for details of his committee’s suggestions.

4. Education chair Steve Hull of the Washoe County School district. See the RGJ link for details.

The RGJ newspaper published an expansive recap and recommendations February 13, which will be reviewe d by the governor, the legislature and educators. Many suggestions from the committees are rooted in the tax code and the bureaucracy of Carson City, plus there's the added burden of the budget crisis. Progress on these fronts is unlikely to happen anytime soon, however there are steps business leaders and concerned citizens can take now, without being slowed down politically. Here are some ideas of how our community can make a difference:

• Look around and step up. Volunteer time in your area of expertise.

• Write your elected representatives -- and post letters to the editor -- offering your opinion and constructive suggestions.

• Attend public events like Reno2020 and Directions 2010, talk it up and write about it.

• Conserve energy at home, office and on the road -- and get an energy audit.

• Be part of the solution..... If you are silent, you are the problem, by allowing the status quo to prevail.

This article also appears in my energy column.

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