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Political Fix by Gloria Penner

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

The audio on this blog features the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation's Andrew Poat who, while not a household name, is known in political circles as an established state and then local government official. So I decided that if I wanted to know something about the new "in" industry, rumored to be a competitor for biotech and high-tech, Andrew would be the one to ask.

I was right. Andrew is a cheerleader for the blossoming clean tech industry, and along with Mayor Jerry Sanders, sees it sopping up a substantial portion of the Obama stimulus money which, he expects, will arrive in San Diego beginning this summer.

Andrew is not alone in this expectation. A veritable public relations machine has been built around clean tech. At the forefront is Clean Tech San Diego , with a membership of local municipalities, major corporations, law firms, government agencies, media and academic institutions, whose agenda is to push the establishment of clean technologies in the San Diego region. It's a non-profit organization. But that doesn't mean it's not well-funded. Members pay $10,000 for a silver membership, $20,000 for the gold level, and $30,000 to be considered a founding member. I counted at least 70 entities listed as members. If all joined as silvers, the take would be $700,000.  My guess is that a significant number are gold or founding members and that the total is in the seven-figure range. 

Obviously there is a great deal at stake. Andrew estimated that the government package could contain tens of millions of dollars. Certainly, the potential is rich enough for Mayor Sanders to wield his political clout and carry clean tech in his portfolio on a recent lobbying trip to Washington, D.C .to seek stimulus money. At last Thursday's downtown Rotary meeting which I attended, he talked enthusiastically about that trip and the expected results. Andrew was on the program, too. But the mayor got most of the time behind the microphone filling us in on "shovel-ready" projects just waiting for the checks to arrive.

His excitement shared by Andrew, his EDC colleagues, and all those clean techies out there is contagious. I could see the Rotarians responding and I felt it, too. I was ready to raid the piggy bank and join the clean tech gold rush -- until my email brought a sobering communication from the California Manufacturers & Technology Assn.

I was told that Tennessee, Oregon and Nevada were grabbing those clean/green jobs so coveted by San Diego because California's business costs are too high . It is politics at play again, but with a different message and a different goal. While the mayor et al are politicking to secure stimulus money and venture capital to encourage clean tech businesses, the trade association wants to change the rules and regulations that discourage such businesses from coming here. What happens to San Diego's hopes for clean tech if those rules don't change?

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