7/14/2011 - Asheville helps lift state green jobs ranking
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times
GREEN IS IN!! And Asheville and Western North Carolina are leading the way in creating jobs that not only help by employing people, but help shape the future of our planet as well.
North Carolina ranks 11th in the nation for green jobs, with 78,881 workers in sustainable construction, electric vehicle technology, waste management, solar energy and other environmentally friendly fields, according to a report set for release today.
The fastest growing sector in the state is electric vehicle technologies. That sector employs 1,100 people, including workers at the Eaton Corp. in Arden who manufacture commercial charging stations for electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt.
Some 2.7 million workers are employed nationwide in the green economy, more than the fossil-fuel industry and twice as many as in biosciences, according to experts with the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.
Raleigh and Charlotte were ranked 30th and 33rd in the Brookings Report New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia, respectively, claimed the top five spots in the report.
Asheville and Buncombe County have claimed their share of green jobs in other surveys, according to Matt Raker, vice president of entrepreneurship at AdvantageGreen, the green jobs division of AdvantageWest Economic Development Group.
The Asheville metropolitan area of Buncombe, Madison, Haywood and Henderson counties had more clean energy companies per capita than anywhere in the state, according to the newly released Clean Energy Data Book from the nonprofit N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.
Buncombe boasts 213 companies in renewable energy and energy efficiency, about half of the 400 companies across the 25 counties of Western North Carolina.
Raker estimated there are "1,000 companies across WNC that are part of the green economy. It's one of the few areas with consistent job growth throughout the recession."
In North Carolina, the estimated median wage for green jobs is $37,348, higher than the $34,823 average for Tar Heel jobs, according to the Brookings report.
Nationwide, median wages for green jobs are about 13 percent higher than the economy as a whole, offering more opportunity and better pay for low- and middle-skilled workers.
But the U.S. as a whole risks losing any competitive advantage by not pressing public and private investments in the growing sector, Brookings experts said.
"The United States should be at the vanguard of developing and deploying new, clean technologies," said Bruce Katz, vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program. "The brutal truth is, unlike our global competitors, we have no strategic framework for expanding the clean economy. We have too few financing tools, and we provide too little support for necessary innovation.
"This is not an area where the public sector needs to get out of the way," Katz said. "Government leaders, at all levels, need to get in the game. Otherwise, we will watch the rest of the world pull away from us."