Advanced energy activity ‘encouraging’Written by Brooke Brockschmidt | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The staff at the Lucas County Improvement Corporation is encouraged by the recent significant amount of local advanced energy activity. First, Governor Strickland announced his proposed advanced energy policies for Ohio’s future. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner then capitalized on the governor’s intentions by announcing that the city would be working with the University of Toledo to develop the proposed Ohio Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development. Both announcements will unquestionably pay huge dividends to the Northwest Ohio economy.
Especially meaningful to the local economy is the governor’s declared support for the continued development of advanced energy sources, including wind and solar power. During a recent visit to Toledo Mark Shanahan, the governor’s energy policy advisor, indicated that the State will require that 12.5 percent of all energy come from renewable sources by the year 2025. Currently, renewable energy sources make up less than 1 percent of the Ohio energy market. The Governor is promoting a more diversified energy portfolio, which aims to reduce our dependence on coal-fired power and introduce new energy technologies into the marketplace. This is excellent news for the Northwest Ohio region.
As many Toledo Free Press readers are aware, the region is on the cutting edge of advanced energy research and production. First Solar, the nation’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, produces its panels in Northwest Ohio and originally began out of laboratories at the University of Toledo. Additionally, the university is home to the Clean and Alternative Energy Incubation Center which houses the Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization Center, where local researchers are busy carving out the future in solar cell research and development. Within the last year, the State of Ohio, through its Third Frontier initiative, awarded the Photovoltaics Center more than $18 million in grant money to continue pursuing the development of new technologies. Further, we enjoy a strategic geographic advantage along Lake Erie, which allows for potential windpower development.
Additionally, the region is advancing new sources of financing for the development of advanced energy. Through a grant from the State of Ohio, the region is currently in the process of launching Rocket Ventures. This program will be administered by the Regional Growth Partnership and aims to increase the amount of venture money available to local advanced materials firms. The fund undoubtedly will improve local access to venture capital and propel many new advanced energy ideas and businesses in the region forward.
Although the revelation that the region is moving forward with advanced energy will not come as news to many residents of Northwest Ohio, the governor’s dedication to a diverse energy portfolio serves as a reaffirmation of the importance of the advanced energy industry to our regional economy. More importantly, it helps serve as a useful road map for our regional economic future. In the case of solar energy manufacturing our area’s long history as a producer of glass will foster continued success in the industry. Our history has embedded the Northwest Ohio region with institutional knowledge, a skilled labor force and a committed business community in the glass industry.
We now have a renewed opportunity to seize upon this occasion and work collaboratively to mobilize our collective resources, market the region as the international location for advanced energy production and manufacturing, strategically target investment in these industries and capitalize on our current strengths to drive the region forward into a new global economy. The mayor and University of Toledo’s support for a new advanced energy center is an excellent first step in this process. Our challenge moving forward will be to connect our region’s history and current skilled labor force with an evolving economy based less on manpower and more on the development of human capital. The key to the region’s survival and ability to ultimately thrive relies on our ability to move from the production goods to the creation of new goods and the innovation of new techniques in production.
Understanding the importance of an evolving energy economy, we are encountering a very exciting time. Here at the LCIC, advanced energy is only one component of our larger economic development strategy. We are working diligently to connect the region’s economic development pieces together. Our region is very fortunate to have skilled professionals working cooperatively through the LCIC, the Regional Growth Partnership, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, our local governments, the University of Toledo, various chambers of commerce, and the Northwest Ohio Regional Economic Development Association. Together we aim to channel the region’s immense talent in the areas of workforce, education and economic development in order to present firms with a consistent message, capable work force, and business-friendly atmosphere. We ask all Toledo Free Press readers to pay close attention in the coming weeks and months as Northwest Ohio rolls out our collective effort to capitalize on the immense opportunity advanced energy provides.
This is a critical and challenging time in Northwest Ohio and we are confident that the region is prepared and willing to meet this challenge. We urge that all Toledo Free Press readers support both the Governor’s diversified energy portfolio and the proposed Ohio Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development.
Matt Sattler is economic development specialist and Shawn Ferguson is CEO of the Lucas County Improvement Corporation.