Nice work if you can get it
What do we do in the meantime?
Both hope and frustration were on display during a breakout session about green jobs at the recent city of Reno Green Summit. First for the hope.
Tom Matter of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) reported, without naming names, that a large geothermal company, a Chinese solar thermal manufacturer and a wind turbine company are seriously considering moves to Reno. That could bring about 300 jobs to the area, with potential for more. As it is, according to a 2009 Center for American Progress report, Nevada is poised to gain about 11,000 green jobs based on its share of national clean-energy investments. Matter applauded a municipal urban wind study underway that will help businesses and residents determine the best places for wind power and could fuel market demand for it. He also said the University of Nevada, Reno’s new geothermal academy could attract more green jobs to the area, saying businesses tend to lay roots where the research is being done.
Matter remarked on Nevada’s natural resources of sun, wind and geothermal energy. “There are very few places that can claim they have all three of these,” he said to the audience at UNR’s Joe Crowley Student Union. “They might have one or two, but few have all three.”
Carlo Luri brought up a fourth: biofuel. The Bentley Biofuels general manager said there’s a federal mandate for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. He said the country currently produces 15 billion gallons of biofuel, and the additional 21 billion gallons has to come from somewhere. “Why not in Nevada, right?” he said.
Biofuel won’t be alone. With things like renewable energy portfolios and the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement—launched by the summit’s keynote speaker, former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels, and signed by Reno Mayor Bob Cashell—growth in the clean energy industry is inevitable.
Now comes the frustrating part. These jobs are trickling in, but there doesn’t seem to be enough of them now to get Northern Nevada back to work. Tammi Wright helped organize a Women in Green Jobs forum last fall, during which it became clear to her that, “We can’t talk about putting women in green jobs until we have those jobs around.”
She’s teamed up with Alex Gamboa of Envirolution to create a Green Jobs Resource Center. The center plans to be a “one-stop shop,” said Wright, between the green industry and job seekers. It intends to help people learn what and where green jobs are, the training needed to get them, and volunteer opportunities as they wait for these jobs to materialize. Though currently unfunded, the center is to feature a physical space in Reno, a green bus that will travel to rural areas, and a website. Wright and Gamboa are currently gathering volunteers and interns interested in green development. “We can drive market demand through these sorts of services,” said Wright.
Audience member and recent UNR graduate Cynthia Fulwinder expressed the frustration of many current, unemployed grads: “I’ve posted my resume everywhere,” she said, only to find herself among 150 applicants for one job. She suggested the Green Jobs Resource Center focus less on job training than on job creation. “The workforce is here,” she said. “We are already qualified, and we’re ready.”