Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Innovation Cluster Wars

As far as I'm concerned, Denver and the State of Colorado won the battle to become the center of US alternative energy economy when ConocoPhillips announced its plans to base its green tech research in Louisville (not the one in Kentucky). Thus, I wasn't surprised to see the following post last Friday in Great Lakes Guy:

On Monday May 5 Vestas Wind Systems fired off a terse letter to Michigan bemoaning the lack of courage and umph in the state's proposed renewable energy law. Essentially, Vestas said 'we want to make next generation energy technology in your stumbling, unemployed state but your policy isn't drawing us in."

Today, the company announced plans to construct the world's largest wind-turbine-tower manufacturing plant in.....drum roll.....Colorado.

The move will leverage approximately $250 million in new investment and employ 400 people by the end of 2010, according to the report in the Denver Post.

I'm not sure if Michigan could make a sweet enough offer because Vestas forged ahead with its Colorado plans without the usual carrots in place. I've been telling students at a local community college where I teach to obtain skills demanded by companies in the energy sector. The Colorado oil industry is already going full tilt and making regular visits to the high schools. I expect a similar boom in alternative energy employment once ConocoPhillips gets its campus up and running.


Janko said...

maybe the decision had something to do with NREL being located there as well.

Jim Russell said...

NREL is just one of many local attractions that other regions cannot replicate. But the ConocoPhillips research campus really puts the Front Range over the top.

The Vestas win is one of many for this region over the past year and a contact at NREL informs me that more deals/relocations are in the pipeline.

Burgher Jon said...

I can't help but think of Colorado being the center for the young anti-establishment industrialists in Atlas Shrugged. Similar paralels if the alternative energy business catches on. Maybe Wyatt's Oil Fields will come to life as Solar Fields instead.

Jim Russell said...

There are "anti-establishment" entrepreneurs readily apparent in the Front Range of Colorado, but they are just a piece of an impressive puzzle.

I keep thinking about about all the struggling cities and states reaching for the brass ring of biotech. Now, green tech is the latest rage of economic development. When I look at what is going on here in Denver, I don't know how the Rust Belt is supposed to re-invent itself as the Green Belt.

Leadership on green living? Rebirth of density?

Janko said...

Green Industry Hub Rises From Rust Belt Ruins

Paul Solman reports on innovators who are making the Pittsburgh region an eco-showcase of the benefits of going green and bringing new hope to the economically depressed Rust Belt region.