A Publication of WTVP

Are you weary of the energy debate? Has “going green” gone stale? Waiting for the trend to pass? You may be waiting awhile.

It’s been interesting to watch the concept of sustainability take hold in recent years. It’s a broad term that means different things to different people, but the most common definition is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Caterpillar was a pioneer on this topic, releasing the first of its annual sustainability reports back in 2005. According to an article in Fortune last year, Cat’s push for sustainable development is a sign that “the greening of corporate America is unstoppable, and that products and services that help solve big environmental problems can be good
for business.”

We are, it seems, in the early stages of a green revolution. In June, Crain’s Chicago Business reported, “A job market that didn’t even exist 10 years ago is booming.” A 2006 study estimated the number of green jobs in the U.S. at 5.3 million, a number expected to jump to 5.8 million by 2010 and 6.9 million by 2020. “Those jobs include titles like chief sustainability officer [and] solar-panel installer…on top of more traditional environmental careers in wastewater treatment and hazardous materials management.”

In central Illinois, we are just beginning to feel the impact of the sustainability juggernaut. Engineering and construction firms extol the virtues of green building and LEED certification—not just in benefits to the environment, but to the bottom line as well. Renewable energy companies are coming to town—the latest being Bauer Power, a Michigan-based company that set up shop in Dunlap this summer. Firefly Energy just cut the ribbon on its world headquarters in Peoria as its cutting-edge battery technologies move out of the laboratory and onto the market.

Mayor Ardis’ Commission on Sustainable Development and Green Technology has brought together many of the key players in this arena, with ambitious goals to put Peoria on the map in the area of sustainability and create these jobs of the future. With the resources at our disposal—from Caterpillar and Peoria NEXT to the Ag Lab and Bradley University—all of the ingredients are in place for this dream to become a reality.

By now you’ve probably seen the marketing campaign for renewable energy from billionaire T. Boone Pickens (“I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.”) This is no left-wing “tree-hugger”—Pickens is a conservative businessman with an eye for a tremendous opportunity.

Exciting things are happening, even as the U.S. economy continues to struggle. But just like the stock market, the best opportunities are often found in the worst of times. Now is the time for business to ride this wave, explore new opportunities and “make green from green.” iBi