Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Green Collar" Jobs For Maine?

From The Associated Press (Feb. 2, 2008):

-- When 1,800 workers lost their jobs after a Maytag appliance factory and headquarters closed last year in the small town of Newton, Iowa, a wind turbine blade company saw opportunity _ an available, skilled workforce in the middle of one of America's hardiest wind energy production regions.

TPI Composites Inc. is building a new plant there as the energy industry aims for a cleaner, more sustainable future. With proper incentives, thousands of "green-collar jobs" could be created, from ethanol production to wind turbines and solar panels, and all the maintenance and construction to support them, industry officials said.

TPI used to build boats, but switched to turbines in 2001 for the "major growth opportunity," said Steve Lockard, CEO of the Phoenix, Ariz.-based company. The idea, he said, is to "transform the workforce away from the Maytag-type jobs of the past into jobs that can withstand the test of time going forward."

However, advocates and executives say training is key to making sure the industry has enough skilled workers to make it into a real economic engine, and are pushing for more lucrative tax breaks, much like oil companies already receive, to make it profitable.

Read the rest here (free Washington Post registration required).

The article goes on to say that for technologies to be successful, federal tax credits must be extended and more federal dollars must be targeted for training.

Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association estimates that estimates that by 2030, nearly a half-million new jobs could be created in the wind industry, in manufacturing, construction and operation.

Says Swisher, "These are jobs that are really the backbone of the economy, jobs like roofers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers," he said. "But the federal government is completely asleep at the switch here."

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