Flint & Genesee Chamber Drives Economic Development Around Clean Energy
Local chamber profiled in first-of-its-kind national report highlighting chamber-led clean energy projects driving clean energy and innovation
While clean energy progress remains slow at the national level, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce has emerged as one of the top local chambers in the country driving economic development around clean energy, according to a first-of-its-kind report released today by Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE). With ten in-depth case studies of chambers located throughout the country, Local Chambers as Change Agents: Creating Economic Vitality through Clean Energy and Innovation provides the first comprehensive look into the role of the Flint & Genesee Chamber and other local chambers in attracting investment, supporting business growth, and diversifying their local economies around clean energy and energy efficiency.
As highlighted in the new report, the new E3 Innovation Network, created in 2011 by the Flint & Genesee Chamber, is driving the supply and demand for innovative energy solutions in Genesee County. Built on a practical, no-frills model, the E3 Innovation Network brings together a diverse group of stakeholders, from big energy users like facilities and fleet-holders to clean-the innovators and entrepreneurs. With 150 participants to date, the chamber-led network is facilitating new sales opportunities for Flint businesses through its quarterly meetings, networking, and online resources.
“Our E3 Innovation Network is helping to diversify our local economy, and repurpose our infrastructure and workforce for the clean energy economy. It has contributed to our successful transition and resurgence in manufacturing and other sectors,” said Janice Karcher, Vice President of Economic Development at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “The Flint & Genesee Chamber is proud to be recognized for our efforts to revitalize the local economy around growing clean energy industries.”
Also highlighted in the report is the Chamber’s work to spur electric vehicle demand and support local manufacturers within electric vehicle supply chains. In 2011, the Chamber partnered with the statewide Clean Energy Coalition to study Michigan’s electric-vehicle infrastructure needs. Genesee County welcomed the nation’s first solar-powered charging station for the Chevy Volt in June 2011.
“For local chambers nationwide looking to help their businesses find new sales opportunities and navigate the clean energy space, the E3 Innovation Network led by the Flint & Genesee Chamber is a fantastic model,” said Diane Doucette, Executive Director of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy. “The Chamber understood that all businesses—from small clean-tech start-ups to companies looking for efficiency upgrades for their large facilities—needed connections first and foremost. The E3 Innovation Network will ensure the Flint economy is stronger and better able to tap into growing clean energy markets.”
Based on surveys of hundreds of local chambers of commerce, CICE’s report highlights ten chambers in Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Utah, Tennessee, Michigan, Massachusetts, and California. By catalyzing clean energy projects in their own communities and convening stakeholders— including policymakers, regulators, entrepreneurs, investors, academics, and labor groups—around clean energy efforts, these chambers are spurring new business opportunities for local companies and giving their member businesses a voice in policy discussions around clean energy and energy efficiency.
The other nine chambers profiled in depth in the new report include:
OHIO: Council of Smaller Enterprises, Greater Cleveland Partnership
With the largest and most comprehensive chamber-led energy efficiency program in the country, the Council of Smaller Enterprises—the small business partner of the local chamber, the Greater Cleveland Partnership—helped its member companies realize more than $13.4 million in energy efficiency savings in 2012 alone. COSE is now working to create its own energy efficiency loan program to further boost energy savings in the private sector.
NORTH CAROLINA: Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
Recognizing that its local manufacturers were paying to transport empty shipping containers back to Asheville, the Asheville Area Chamber established the Western North Carolina Transportation Alliance, an innovative statewide network of companies to coordinate transportation and shipping routes. This network has already helped save businesses more than 44,000 gallons of fuel in 2011 alone.
SOUTH CAROLINA: North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce
In this coastal tourist town, the North Myrtle Beach Chamber championed a project to transform its community into a wind energy demonstration site. Thanks to the Chamber’s efforts, South Carolina installed its first grid-connected wind turbine in 2010. Now, small test turbines dot the beachfront, creating a future test bed for entrepreneurs and sharing data to help train local engineering students.
TEXAS: Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
Within one of the largest oil and natural gas producing states in the nation, the Greater Austin Chamber has become a clean-tech recruiting powerhouse. Leveraging its close ties to the University of Texas at Austin and the city’s municipally owned utility, the Chamber recruited 20 clean-tech companies to date, and co-founded Pecan Street Inc., a cutting-edge demonstration site for smart-grid entrepreneurs.
MASSACHUSETTS: Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce
The Merrimack Valley Chamber partnered with Nexamp, a local clean-energy solutions provider, to help 46 companies in Northeast Massachusetts save more than $30 million collectively over the next 30 years through energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation. The Chamber’s Clean Energy Program helped spark the largest solar projects in both Haverhill and Lawrence, Massachusetts.
UTAH: Salt Lake Chamber
With Salt Lake City’s poor air quality hurting business attraction and retention, the Salt Lake Chamber worked with local companies to cut fuel use and boost their bottom lines. The Salt Lake Chamber’s Clean Air Champions program has already resulted in millions of dollars in savings for local companies, including UPS, which has saved more than 10 million gallons of fuel since 2004, and the mining company Rio Tinto, which saves an average of $1.65 million per year with its new no-idling policy for trucks.
ILLINOIS: Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
For years, failures in Chicago’s outdated electric grid have been devastating to businesses, including big energy users like Groupon and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Chicagoland Chamber led a broad coalition to advocate for smart grid legislation in Illinois, putting the state and its electric grid on the path to meet the growing energy needs of Chicago businesses.
TENNESEE: Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce
Headed by a former Marine, the Bartlett Chamber’s Team Green Zone is on a mission to help member companies cut their energy use and save money. This innovative network brings in revenue for the chamber by performing energy benchmarks and assessments, developing efficiency action plans, and helping businesses implement upgrades. In only two years, Team Green Zone has already helped 43 companies benchmark their energy use and implement efficiency projects valued at $5.5 million.
CALIFORNIA: San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
With long travel times presenting a challenge for fast-moving businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area, the SF Chamber led business advocacy efforts for statewide high-speed rail, which passed through a California ballot measure in 2008. High-speed rail will allow commuters from the Central Valley and Sacramento to more easily access workplaces in San Francisco, and will boost economic activity from tourism as travel times decrease. The SF Chamber brought other local chambers on board, helped shape high-speed rail planning routes, and educated policymakers and the public on the economic benefits of high-speed rail.
CICE’s report, Local Chambers as Change Agents, is available here: