Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Following others on cleantech

I’ve been on vacation since the middle of last week, visiting my son in Los Angeles. Capable fellow blogger, Industry Liaison, has filled in during my absence.

This is my first trip to LA, and my first trip to the west coast, period. Los Angeles is a sprawling city, one that has grown up entirely around the automobile. To understand Los Angeles, you must understand the central role of the automobile. It is the “language” of Angelenos.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to change that, or at least begin looking for ways to capitalize on clean technology, and alternatives to the automobile, and at the same time, revitalize a large tract of downtown that is currently undeveloped. He would turn this scraggly section located not far from where I was yesterday (Olvera Street, and El Puebla Los Angeles Historical Monument, near City Hall), into an area connected to clean technology. In fact, the mayor’s business team has already begun courting firms to locate to this area.

While other cities I’ve visited (Chicago, Boston, New York) have vibrant areas downtown, where tourists feel welcome, Los Angeles, just a stone’s throw from the mayor’s office, is ugly, garbage strewn, and filled with transients, even near a historical area highlighting the birthplace of the city. Parking is expensive, and not easy to find, and for most people, there are better (and safer) sections to visit.

Wherever I go, even in decrepit post-industrial war zones, like Gary, Indiana, I manage to find my way downtown, mostly because I’m fascinated with the architecture, and the time, when these were the heart of urban communities. This is not the case in Los Angeles, as well as many other urban areas of the U.S. Given that sprawl is an issue, and very costly, finding ways to revitalize downtowns will be an important task for mayors, and other urban planners over the next decade.

[The core of what was downton, 40-50 years ago; now it isn't a haven for visitors]

While Maine’s motto, Dirigo, for “I lead,” is quaint, in reality, a state like California is a national, as well as global leader in business, particularly business connected to anything cleantech. What Maine needs to do is begin finding ways to capitalize on ideas, and sectors that will be national, and international leaders, and begin putting provisions in place, like workforce initiatives connected to economic growth strategies. Then, possibly, Maine might lead others, instead of constantly lagging behind other states and regions.

You can read the entire article on Mayor Villaraigosa in this morning’s LA Times, here.

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