The U.S. Midwest finally has recognized that the industries that once powered its economy will never return. Now leaders in the region are looking to renewable energy manufacturing and technologies as key to the heartland’s renaissance.
Mariah Power manufactures distinctive vertical axis wind generating turbines and displayed them at the Michigan Energy Fair in Onekama, Mich. Four years ago, when the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association chose this tiny Lake Michigan town to host an annual display of the latest in alternative energy technology, most residents thought of climate change and clean energy with the same disregard as lawmakers in Washington.
This year, however, the Michigan Energy Fair attracted 5,000 visitors over three days. And today Manistee County is home to Mariah Power, which builds its Windspire turbines in a new manufacturing plant that employs more than 40 people now and 100 people by the end of the year.
Mariah, which exports most of its residential-scale windmills to Europe, is the first new manufacturing facility in Manistee County in a generation. It also is one of the more than 30 clean energy manufacturers — spanning wind, solar, geothermal, and the energy conservation and efficiency sectors — that have established new production facilities in Michigan in the last 20 months, generating more than 3,000 new jobs.
Largely guided by the region’s governors, Republican and Democrat alike, the Midwestern states independently developed new economic strategies that transcended politics. Between 2006 and 2008, all of the Upper Great Lakes states except Indiana approved renewable energy standards that required utilities to generate a portion of their power from alternative sources of energy.
Ohio and Michigan produced new multi-billion dollar bond programs to encourage entrepreneurs and help existing manufacturers retool, not only to produce equipment to meet the new standards but also to build clean vehicles, energy-efficient appliances, and other durable clean-energy goods. Wisconsin and Illinois focused on new research and economic development strategies to leverage their agriculture industries to produce clean biofuels. The Midwestern states also are providing support to community colleges for green-collar job training and encouraging universities to collaborate on clean energy projects.
Read the full article by Keith Schneider here.