November 1, 2011

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A Look at Utah’s Green Economy

Sarah Ryther Francom

November 1, 2011

In this issue of Utah Business, we are proud to present our third annual Green Business awards program. This special recognition feature honors 17 of the state’s greenest companies and initiatives. We think you’ll agree that their efforts to be sustainable and promote environmental awareness in the workplace and community are worth applauding. Read about their efforts and impacts on page 68.

In conjunction with our Green Business awards program, we bring you a feature that explores Utah’s place in the renewable energy industry. Though renewable energy represents a small fraction of the state’s overall energy consumption, the industry is growing. In “Catching Sunshine,” writer Jeff Vanek digs into the opportunities this industry presents for Utah. Read more on page 62.

As we take a closer look at Utah’s green economy, it’s clear that the industry is growing. But it’s also clear that we could be doing better. Since the Great Recession hit the United States nearly four years ago, many have touted that green jobs would be key to digging us out of the slowdown; others have been more skeptical. A Brookings Institute report recently examined the economic impacts of green jobs on a national and statewide level. The report concluded that the nation isn’t making great strides toward establishing a green economy—and neither is Utah.

The report, which defines green jobs as “the sector of the economy that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit,” found that when compared to other states, Utah is lagging behind in the development of green jobs. The report, in fact, ranks Utah’s concentration of green jobs at No. 46 in the nation. Green jobs currently account for a mere 1.5 percent of the state’s employment opportunities.

Though slower to jump on the green bandwagon, Utah is taking steps to establish a greener economy. According to the Brookings’ report, Utah added nearly 4,000 green jobs between 2003 and 2010, which equals a growth of 3.5 percent during that timeframe. And a Department of Workforce Services report projects that Utah’s green economy is poised for great growth during the next decade. DWS projects that green jobs will grow at a rate of 2 percent annually, averaging 1,100 openings per year. DWS also reports that green jobs are expected to comprise more than 3 percent of total openings, which is a significant improvement from the current 1.5 percent.

Regardless of whether you subscribe to the notion that green jobs will speed up the economic recovery, there’s no doubt that there’s untapped potential in green development. Utah’s businesses and entrepreneurs have an opportunity to innovate new products and processes that will enhance Utah’s green, and overall, economy and put Utah on the map as a leader in this emerging industry.

From the Editor

Sarah Ryther Francom

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