It might seem counter-intuitive, given the rich Texas heritage in fossil fuels, but business organizations up and down the I-35 corridor connecting Austin and San Antonio are banding together to drive a series of green economic development projects in the region.
Step back and reflect on the fact that both of these cities are served by utility companies that happen to be among the most progressive in the nation when it comes to renewable energy. Both CPS (which I wrote about in this post last week) and Austin Energy are ranked on the list of 10 municipal utility purchasers of wind energy. There are more than 50 clean energy companies in Austin alone.
The so-called Texas Greenbelt Coalition pulls together community groups, private sector advocates and local governments up and down the rural communities between Austin and San Antonio -- all with the goal of positioning Texas as a leader in renewable energy. It's an effort that is a nod to the fact that many Texas cities are only 60,000 to 100,000 in size. You could, in effect, call their rural cities.
Kimo Storke, principal of local business development firm KAS Consulting and the interim facilitator of the coalition, said it was the brainchild of the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce. Partners in getting the organization off the ground include the Pecan Street Project, an energy effort started by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, and the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum. The coalition is OFFICIALLY (administratively speaking) part of the Greater Antonio - Austin Corridor Council. Got all that straight? The group is lucky enough to have found some sponsors that hail from the energy world.
The fact that so many different organizations are involved speaks volumes about the interest level that many Texas businesses in the area have in the effort to develop renewable energy resources more quickly, says Storke. Rather than trying to manage all these projects separately, they are hoping to pool resources.
"You have a lot of people here who want to be part of the green energy play," he says.
One immediate project of the Greenbelt Coalition is the development of what Storke calls a "digital marketplace" that will help bring third-party validation to green businesses and resources throughout the region. The coalition supports a LinkedIn Group with about 150 members; in the "real world," approximately 100 members are currently participating in networking events.
You can actually think of the Greenbelt Coalition as a mega-chamber of commerce, one focused on a region and a single economic goal.
Two projects that are already being explored as part of connections made through the coalition include the development of a solar final module assembly plant and a bio-hybrid energy project that is reclaiming some decimated cotton fields.