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White House Says, ‘Stand Tall, Michigan!’

Obama’s green jobs czar says state should lead rise of nation’s green industry

June 18, 2009 | By Jim Dulzo
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

  House advisor Van Jones says Michigan has everything it needs to lead the country’s green-energy manufacturing sector.
LANSING—The state’s Green Today, Jobs Tomorrow Conference drew a near-capacity crowd to the Lansing Center last month, and a bubbling optimism lit up the big place all day long.

The brightest smile came from a top White House official, Van Jones, who told the crowd that the federal government’s green energy spending plans could put Michiganders back to work—if the state’s officials make the right policy moves.

Mr. Jones’ keynote address went down well with the 1,400 entrepreneurs, educators, company and labor officials, researchers, state employees, faith community, and policy wonks who attended. They were already abuzz over the policies the Granholm administration is putting in place that intend to add another tagline to the Michigan brand—along with Arsenal of Democracy, Auto State, and Water Wonderland, the governor now wants Michigan to become the Green Power State.

Mr. Jones, a former community organizer and the founder of Green for All, has long said that America can simultaneously solve its poverty and climate problems by mounting the most ambitious building weatherization program in history and drastically expanding the nation’s green manufacturing and installation sectors.

Now Mr. Jones is repeating this message as the White House Special Advisor on Green Jobs. And he had a very specific and positive message for Michigan.

Mr. Jones was quite direct: Michigan has almost everything it takes to make it a green energy capital of the world. All the state’s citizens need now, he said, was the political will to move forward quickly and effectively with pro-green policies. He emphasized a theme that both Ms. Granholm and DELEG officials repeated throughout the day: Washington has its eye on Michigan because of its great natural resources, including wind and sunshine, a skilled labor force, and a world-renowned manufacturing base.

His comments seemed to bode well for Governor Jennifer Granholm’s ongoing drive, via the Michigan Public Service Commission and Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth, to make the state’s regulatory, funding, and development policies irresistible to green manufacturing companies. The governor wants those firms to convert a big chunk of Michigan’s dormant manufacturing base into wind turbine, solar panel, and efficiency-technology factories, making everything from gigantic turbine blades, to basic cellulose insulation, to high-efficiency windows.

So the crowd was happy to hear Mr. Jones’ assertion that Washington is ready to help the state go green with funds from President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In fact, he got a standing ovation.

Jim Dulzo is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s managing editor. Reach him at jimdulzo@mlui.org.

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