EDITORIAL: Cleantech Tupelo

Tupelo Mayor Ed Neelly acted decisively and quickly Thursday to make true the city’s claim that it recycles plastic bottles taken to recycling trailers by individuals and businesses.
What had been assumed turned out to be incorrect; there was no plastics recycling. All the plastic bottles were taken to the Three Rivers regional landfill in Pontotoc County, which has never recycled plastics but hopes it soon can recycle a majority of its solid waste stream.
Tupelo has another recycling stream, green bins picked up every two weeks by Waste Management, the city’s waste hauler, and that service is not implicated in the false claims about plastics recycled from drop-off bins.
Tupelo got a late start toward moving into the main stream of the green movement – environmentally sustainable policies and services – and it has a long way to go.
The next city administration has an opportunity to ramp up the city’s commitment and involvement in green practices, and it has good examples to follow nationwide.
BusinessWeek magazine reported in May on seven U.S. cities – all larger than Tupelo but with the kind of industries and life quality to which Tupelo aspires – and their greening efforts.
All have signed on to air quality standards in the Kyoto Protocol, to which the U.S. is not a full party.
Here’s what seven cities have done and are doing to attract “clean tech” development:
– San Jose, Calif., ahead even of iconic green cities Portland and San Francisco, started competing early and vigorously for clean, profitable investment.
Seeking to have the most expansive plug-in electric-vehicle infrastructure, San Jose was a proving ground for the technology. “We want to be the R&D arm for the country,” says Collin O’Mara, cleantech policy strategist for the city, quoted in the magazine article. The city has become a liaison between community colleges and companies in an effort to help create real “green jobs,” launched a $3 million venture fund to invest in cleantech, and helped land the country’s second Underwriters Lab testing facility. It also draws on the mega-intellectual capacity of Stanford University and California-Berkeley, nearby campuses, and it has recruited cleantech industries away from other cities.
– Boston realized there was money in greening up. Now Boston has a $500 million solar initiative, a $2 million green affordable housing project and building codes that require green construction. It draws on Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. Tupelo, with historic, strong ties to TVA, should be strongly positioned to begin a major greening partnership itself.
– Austin has leveraged its high-tech successes into a cleantech passion. It has set up an Environmental Business Cluster incubator program to look for “technology that would help us in our effort to become carbon-neutral.” Tupelo has a successful business incubator, with TVA’s partnership. Could it be expanded for more cleantech emphasis?
– San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that his city’s 65 full-time staffers in the city’s Environment Department were working on economic development policies that would help companies offset the high cost of operating in the city. It has recruited major cleantech companies, relying, as did San Jose, on Stanford and Cal-Berkeley connections as a magnet.
– Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels drafted the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Action Agreement and has since gone on to turn his city into an environmental leader. Proximity to Boeing’s operations makes Seattle attractive for cleantech companies and venture capitalists.
– Portland prioritized compact development and mass transit, giving itself an immediate head start over some locales. It has a new Bureau of Planning & Sustainability that brings together the economic development and planning arms of the city. It seeks to become the first Electric Vehicle-ready American city. It also stresses low taxes and property prices.
– Denver calls its initiative Greenprint Denver with recruitment of renewable energy companies a business priority. The Green Denver Business program works to attract new cleantech companies and reaches out to companies that already exist to make sure they know about available incentives and rebates.
In addition to what’s been done, federal stimulus funds are available for application by cities of all sizes in every state for energy and cleantech innovation.
Toyota, among the cleantech leaders worldwide, has given Tupelo an exceptionally high profile. Now is the prime time to take the cleantech development initiative further as companies around the world seek the best business climate for profit – still the greatest motivator.

NEMS Daily Journal

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