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"Green economy" research from Philadelphia offers hints for other major metros

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The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia has published new research detailing the sorts of investment necessary to build the foundatio...

The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia has published new research detailing the sorts of investment necessary to build the foundation for economic progress related to sustainable manufacturing, green construction and demolition waste recycling, and energy efficiency projects/retrofits.

The biggest potential obstacle to this progress: strategy and worker training/education policies rooted in the past.

The reason I'm paying attention to this report is because this group is a founding member of the larger Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which is ALL about sharing ideas and best practices for achieving sustainable growth at the community level. These are spunky local businesses, many of them in the "small" category. The sustainable economy isn't something we should be relying on mega-corporations to create.

So even though the details and recommendations are specific to Philadelphia, which has lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 40 years and certainly could benefit from the sustainability movement, there are definitely lessons here for other metros around the United States.

Among the recommendations in the report (called the "Emerging Industries Project") are that cities like Philadelphia give priority to bids for public projects that have a "recycling" component to them (whatever gets knocked down gets handled differently than in the past, with materials such as bricks being reused) and that the policy of allowing commercial and residential development on land previously zone for industrial zones be reconsidered. Encourage "clean" industrial parks instead of more condominiums, the report suggests.

For any progress to be made in building green jobs or a sustainable local economy, it will take cooperation from the government, from non-profits and the private sector for new industries to emerge, the report suggests. (No argument from this vantage point. No finger-pointing, either.)

The other thing it will take is a bit of a reboot in terms of public perception: Even though the Philadelphia metro supports the base and policies to accommodate manufacturing, the local perception is that this industry is "dead" and has moved elsewhere. While this is true of the historical industry, the business model around manufacturing products for the clean energy sector is another matter entirely. Many people also are still hung up on the idea that sustainability comes at the expense of profitability, the report finds.

Local products also need local markets, so finding ways to make it easier for the community to find and buy local goods and services should be a priority.

Here's a PDF of the 93-page analysis.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure