By Junayd Mahmood
Green jobs are real, and if the news out of Michigan is any indicator, they’re capable of reviving entire economies. Smart policies and investments on both the state and federal level are paying huge returns in Michigan by putting thousands back to work.
Michigan’s economy is recovering from a decade of devastating job losses – nearly a million jobs lost in the last decade – by luring clean energy manufacturing into the state. Economists expect Michigan to add 64,600 jobs in 2011 and 61,500 in 2012. A recent Gallup survey of state job markets ranks Michigan first in the nation for job creation.
Former Governor Granholm and her advisors had the foresight to plant the seeds of a clean energy economy well before the Great Recession. Granholm’s team created a $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund in 2005 to attract investment in the Michigan cleantech sector. In 2008, Michigan passed a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) requiring utilities to generate ten percent of their electricity from renewable sources and efficiency savings by 2015.
The recent job growth is the latest indicator of a dramatic shift in Michigan’s economy. Michigan businesses have $14 billion worth of projects in the pipeline, reflecting long-term industry investment in Michigan and the cleantech sector. According to Granholm, seventeen battery companies and fifty solar, wind, and biofuels companies moved to Michigan between August 2009 and December 2010 due to state tax incentives and federal stimulus grants.
Not only has Michigan aggressively moved into the cleantech sector, it is fast becoming the industry’s foremost innovator. Michigan holds 23 percent of the nation’s clean energy patents and continues to invest heavily in research and development. Last year, the University of Michigan alone spent $1.4 billion on R&D.
Michigan has a new Governor in Rick Snyder who campaigned as a “good, green Republican.” It is essential that he maintain Michigan’s clean energy momentum by preserving and building on the policies responsible for its emergence.
With every Michigander that goes back to work, Michigan proves economic prosperity doesn’t require defiling our precious natural resources. Clean energy produces good jobs that pay decent wages, protect the environment, and build a stronger middle class. Michigan is only the latest example, but as its economic woes begin to be replaced with clean energy prosperity, the rest of the nation can follow its example.
– By Junayd Mahmood