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Green Jobs Come Slowly But Steadily

High-quality green jobs are widely touted as the quickest, most sustainable path to economic recovery. Yet, in the wake of the Recovery Act meant to stimulate renewable energy deployment and the transition to a green economy, those jobs have been arriving at a frustratingly slow pace. A recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune outlined some of those worries in Minnesota.

Several companies in Minnesota, including Solar Skies Mfg, a manufacturer of solar thermal collectors, Suzion wind turbine plant and New Flyer hybrid bus plant were all forced to lay off a high percentage of workers in 2009. The fact is that the green tech industry has not been immune to the recession, a problem compounded by the slow roll-out of Recovery Act funds. Miles of red tape have left millions of dollars waiting in the wings, as green businesses struggle to stay alive in anticipation of brighter days to come. So, instead of greener jobs, many workers received pink slips.

One reason for the holdup in funding is a simple lack of preparedness for stimulus plans. The plans are so new that there weren’t any rules or processes in place for putting them in motion. As a result, the federal government has had to write regulations for many proposed plans from scratch, leaving hundreds of millions in stimulus dollars tied up in traffic.

Still, the Obama administration and state governments push for green tech funding and incentives, and green tech companies remain positive. Earlier in January, President Obama announced another $2.3 billion in tax credits for clean energy manufacturing in the United States. And many green industry leaders are forecasting a stronger 2010, obviously speculating that the funds tied up in 2009 will finally be dispensed in 2010.

While hundreds of companies around the nation have had to lay off workers during a slumping 2009, they eagerly await the promised cash that will enable employee callbacks and even new hires.

Frustration, annoyance and disappointment are common emotions felt throughout the solar power and green tech industries. Yet there also seems to be an indefatigable, if reluctant, patience and positivity proliferating throughout. Joshua Low of the Blue Green Alliance summed it up well:

“The green economy has definitely been no stranger to the recession, but we are building a lot of the right infrastructure and policies right now. The [hope] is that the recovery acts as a down payment on building a stronger green economy.”

From Minnesota to Massachusetts to Monterey Bay, there are equal doses of exasperation and expectation among green job hopefuls, while stimulus funds trickle out of the federal coffers. To be fair, 2009 was a year filled with many gains, and many jobs created, but losses equaled or outpaced those gains. However, as more red tape is cut, and more stimulus plans and funds are allowed to move forward, we can see a little more concrete evidence of our budding green economy in 2010.

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