Going Green Can Mean Less Cost and More Jobs

July 21st, 2011 by DWM Magazine

Going green isn’t just good for the environment; it can also be good for the economy and help spur job growth. Dr. Helen Sanders, vice president, technical business development, at Minnesota-based SAGE Electrochromics, testified recently before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where she told the congressional members that low interest loans, which can help small businesses improve their energy efficiency, is one of the best ways to grow jobs in rural America.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Committee, had made the suggestion that SAGE testify on how it was able to start construction on a new green manufacturing facility in Minnesota’s rural Rice County. The project has already created more than 200 construction jobs and is expected to create about 160 permanent green jobs.

Speaking of her company’s own project, Sanders told the Committee that it is partly funded by a loan from the company’s local electric cooperative, funded through a USDA loan program, similar to the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in 2010, which was being discussed during the committee meeting. The Rural Energy Savings Program is designed to help create jobs and lower energy bills for families and small businesses in rural communities by promoting energy-saving home renovations.

According to Sanders, legislation such as the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, can be beneficial in a number of ways, including job creation and an improved work environment.

“It allows a business the opportunity to be energy efficient and have a sustainably built facility, but it also helps in attracting and retaining the talent a company needs,” Sanders told dwmmag.com™. “The committee wanted to understand, based on the experiences of others, how potential legislation can help create jobs in rural America. I testified before the committee about the new facility we are building and that we’re in receipt of a loan from the USDA and that has helped us to implement sustainable design and also how it will impact our business related to job growth.”

The opportunity to speak before Congress also brought to light opportunities for the glass industry to help grow the market for energy-efficient glazing products. Sanders explained that a representative from an energy auditing company also spoke during the hearing.

“Our industry should work to have energy-efficient products known and recognized by the energy auditors as they are often the ones who make product recommendations to consumers,” she said. “Auditors hold the key for what energy-efficient solutions get recommended to consumers … as the market for sustainability and energy efficiency grows there will likely be other players of influence as well. We need to think strategically about these opportunities.”

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