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The 5 Best Cities For Green Jobs

First Posted: 03/18/2010 5:12 am Updated: 05/25/2011 3:10 pm

Guest Post From Dan Shapley From The Daily Green

"In a generally bleak employment picture, the green jobs sector is growing faster than any other." So writes Jim Motavalli in The Daily Green's report about the best U.S. cities to find a green job. Growth in the sector was a robust 9.1% in the decade ending in 2007 (compared to 3.7% overall), and as many as another 1.9 million jobs are expected by 2020 from the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The stimulus bill is pumping $30 billion into the clean energy sector alone.

Green jobs can mean a lot of things -- conservation and pollution mitigation, clean energy, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly production, along with training and support. But each state isn't sharing equally in this bounty of new jobs.

"With unemployment over 10%, people need to go where the jobs are, and some states -- and some cities -- are making out better than others as the green jobs phenomenon unfolds," Motavalli writes. "While every state and most American cities have a piece of the new economy, here are the five cities that -- through a combination of federal, state and municipal programs -- are faring best."

New York City

nyc summer streets

Under newly reelected Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city launched PlaNYC with 127 initiatives for greening the city, including an earmark $1 billion for building retrofits to increase energy efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Clean Edge ranks the New York metropolitan area (including northern New Jersey and Long Island) third among 15 top U.S. metro areas for job creation. New York State was the sixth leading state for clean energy job creation in 2007, adding 3,323 clean businesses and 34,363 new jobs that year. Some $209 million in venture capital was invested in the state's clean energy economy between 2006 and 2008.

Find a green job in New York City.

Photo: Rolando Alvarez

San Francisco

 Park(ing) Day, The Trust for Public Land Office, San Francisco.

According to the New York Times, California had the most clean-energy jobs in 2008: 125,000, many of them in progressive San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley. The Clean Edge report identifies San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose as the number one metro area for clean technology job activity (Los Angeles/Riverside/Orange County is second). SunPower, a solar company based in San Jose with 5,400 employees, is rated #10 in Clean Edge's 2009 survey of top clean-tech employers. Green tech can only get better in San Francisco, where 20 big construction projects have applied for LEED certification and voters recently approved $100 million in revenue bonds to support renewable energy. In California overall, green businesses increased 45% between 1995 and 2008, and employment in the sectors grew 36%, according to the "Many Shades of Green" report from Next 10. The report said the most jobs were added in services (45% of the total), followed by manufacturing (21%). In research positions, the biggest private sector categories are green transportation, energy generation, and air and environment, said the report.

Find a green job in San Francisco.

Photo: Bill Poole/The Trust for Public Land


Boston/Cambridge

installing windows

Starting with the fact that with its concentration of colleges --including MIT, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern, Emerson and several more, the metro area is a great incubator for green technology. Named the "best walking city" by Prevention magazine last year, Boston has had a major climate protection plan in place since 2002. Its number three fuel source, believe it or not, is wind power. Its new buildings have to be constructed to top LEED standards, and most of its municipal vehicles are either electric or run on B20 biofuel. Boston (including Worcester, Lawrence, Lowell and Brockton) ranks as number four in the Clean Edge survey of 15 top U.S. metro areas for clean-tech job creation. The Boston area is, not surprisingly, home to some cutting-edge green companies.

Boston Power, for instance, is helmed by the ambitious Swedish executive Christina Lampe-Onnerud, who pioneered a better lithium-ion battery for HP laptops, and is moving into the electric car market. And a local competitor is the fast-moving A123, which also makes lithium-ion battery packs and has Chrysler among its customers.

Find a green job in Boston available green jobs in Boston is here.

Photo: George Peters/ IStock

Detroit

Olivia zaleski at Detroit auto show

The Motor City makes few Top Ten lists. Its vaunted monorail goes practically nowhere, its downtown is still struggling, and political turmoil at City Hall -- added to daunting budgetary constraints -- has kept civic progress at a minimum. Michigan has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 15.3%, and it is also dealing with 3.6% job loss between 1998 and 2007. A Pew Center on the States report says that the state will have lost a million jobs by the end of the decade (a quarter in the auto industry, and more than a third this year). But help is on the way, in the form of federal Department of Energy green-tech grants that are funding factories and creating jobs to tap into the vast pool of skilled auto industry talent in the metropolitan area. The state had created more than 22,000 clean-tech jobs by 2007, but those numbers will jump impressively when recent DOE funding puts spades in the ground.

Michigan did make one Top Ten list: It was number seven on a list of clean energy jobs compiled by Pew Charitable Trusts. Clean Edge identifies the green transportation sector as one of four growth areas, and that benefits the cluster of companies making hybrid and electric vehicles in the greater Detroit area. Even companies not based in Michigan -- such as California's Fisker Automotive and Ford battery car supplier Magna International -- have opened hubs near Detroit. A mechanical engineer working on plug-in hybrids and EVs can expect to make $63,600 median pay with a bachelor's degree, reports Clean Edge. A great example of what's happening in the Rust Belt is the transformation of the Ford Motor Company plant in Wixom, Michigan from a shuttered eyesore that had lost 1,500 jobs to an incubator for Xtreme Power (which makes power systems for wind and solar) and Clairvoyant Energy (solar).

Find a green job in Detroit.

Photo: Courtesy Olivia Zaleski/CNNMoney

Portland, Oregon

portland community garden

Many rate Portland number one in sustainability. What other city can boast of 200 miles of walking and bicycling trails, a fast transit hub to the airport, fare-free light rail in the city core and free parking for electric cars? The city replaced a six-lane highway with a waterfront park, and it has 50 LEED-certified buildings. Despite strong challenges from Colorado and Tennessee, Oregon was the number one performer in creating clean energy economy jobs, reports the Pew Charitable Trusts. Oregon had almost 20,000 clean jobs in 2007, many of them in the Portland metro area. More than 1 percent of the Beaver State's 1.9 million jobs are related to the clean energy economy -- the highest percentage in the nation. Oregon is also number three in providing environmentally friendly manufacturing jobs. A Clean Edge survey of the Top 15 metro areas for clean-tech job activity puts Portland/Salem at number eight, just below Seattle/Tacoma/Bremerton. Like other cities on this list, Portland struggles with high unemployment, but it's fighting joblessness with its prime weapon -- sustainability.

Find a green job in Portland.

Photo: Leslie Pohl-Kosbau

Other Green Job Cities

To read more about these five cities, and see a list of other notable destinations, check out Jim's full report, The Best Cities for Green Jobs.

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