Cincinnati could soon be on the path to becoming a green jobs incubator, according to a local task force made up of key players in local business, education and economic development.
And the critical steps to make this a reality are starting to be taken, say those involved with drafting the report, "Pathways and Policies Towards Green Jobs in Cincinnati."
The green jobs initiative behind the report began in June 2009, when the Pew Charitable Trusts ranked Ohio fourth in the nation in terms of the number of green jobs. While this nascent category is not large - Ohio had a total of 2,800 green manufacturing related jobs, according to the Pew report - it stands ripe for growth on the back of the state's manufacturing heritage. From July to October of that year, Norwood design firm emersion DESIGN
led a series of meetings with Cincinnati-area stakeholders to determine how the Queen City can best tap the region's potential to become a leader in green industry. The report, sponsored in part by the BlueGreen Alliance
, was released October 21.
"Pathways and Policies Towards Green Jobs in Cincinnati" is available online
from BlueGreen Alliance's website. The 83-page PDF document outlines a series of recommendations and findings about green job creation in the area.
But what happens next? Will the report lead to boots-on-the-ground progress, or is this a rhetorical parlor game for optimistic planners?
Evidence suggests it's squarely the former, according to officials at emersion DESIGN. Shawn Hesse, an architect/designer with emersion DESIGN and one of the report's authors, says the local chapter of BlueGreen alliance has taken on the task of forming a green jobs steering committee.
"They're starting to identify key individuals to serve as the organizing committee," he says, adding that the group is focusing first on recruiting from the report's steering committee.
emersion DESIGN principal Chad Edwards says that the green jobs steering committee is a critical first piece in the fulfillment of the plan's vision.
"The green jobs council can form a coalition of leaders in education, job development and business," he explains. "In that way, this council will be an effective body, versus everyone trying to do their own pieces. For us that's critical."
Edwards adds that the council can direct ways to achieve the report's other key recommendations: solidifying the definition of "green jobs," supporting existing companies in their transition to green jobs, developing a strong funding model to support green investment, adding green "strings" to existing government incentives and enhancing existing green jobs policies to make them more effective.
According to Hesse, this initial step in the process has garnered support from powerful places: councilmember's Chris Bortz and Laure Quinlivan have expressed interest in the initiative, as has Office of Environmental Quality Director Larry Falkin. Falkin and Bortz were both on the report's initial steering committee.
The green jobs concept has stood as a tantalizing fix-all for the hit Ohio's manufacturing economy has taken in the past decade, but a cohesive, structured move to make it a reality has yet to gel. In this case, however, the combination of motivation from the Pew study, support from government, business and academia, and the concrete steps already underway suggest that this initiative to build Cincinnati's green economy may indeed have some traction.
Writer: Matt Cunningham