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San Diego’s CleanTech Industry Booming

Growth Means Jobs In San Diego

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Video published December 3, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: Is the San Diego region well-positioned to take advantage of future growth in the green technology industry? KPBS environment and business reporter Ed Joyce joins us to discuss the potential growth of clean technology industries in San Diego.


San Diego's efforts to grow its "green" or cleantech industry are paying off. A local trade group believes the need to develop new sources of energy will create new jobs for the region.

San Diego's efforts to grow its "green" or cleantech industry are paying off. A local trade group believes the need to develop new sources of energy will create new jobs for the region.

The number of jobs directly linked to the cleantech sector in San Diego is estimated at more than 2,000.

But CleanTECH San Diego is working on an updated analysis of how many jobs the sector provides and how the regional economy benefits.

The industry trade group started in 2007 and now includes about 760 companies. What's behind the growth of the cleantech sector is the push for renewable energy.

"We haven't even tapped the beginning of the potential around clean technologies as a legitimate source of energy and power in our country," said Lisa Bicker, president of CleanTECH San Diego.

"Here in San Diego alone we have 181 solar companies and that's only growing," Bicker said. "So we anticipate as our appetite for solar power and other renewable resources continues to increase we'll see more economic activity and more environmental benefit around those sectors."

And that activity translates into jobs.

One of those San Diego solar companies is One Roof Energy.

David Field's company provides lease financing for homeowners who want rooftop solar but can't afford the upfront costs.

Field said CleanTECH San Diego's support has made a difference.

"For us it's really been a cluster of like-minded companies," said Field. "Companies that have actually helped us grow, advisers, consultants that have actually helped us grow, because there's a real focus in terms of supporting clean tech and emerging businesses here."

Field has 12 employees but uses roofing companies and subcontractors.

He said his company is growing within California and expanding to Arizona and other states.

It's just one example of the booming growth of the cleantech or "green" economy.

"From 1995 to 2008 it grew at 36 percent," said Victoria Bradshaw, secretary of labor and workforce development for the State of California. "That's huge. When you look at the overall economy grew at only 19 percent in terms of jobs. And I mean that's nothing to sneeze at but 36 percent is an incredibly large number."

Bradshaw said the clean tech sector continued to grow jobs during the recession while the overall economy was shedding jobs.

"It's important that associations like CleanTECH San Diego begin to organize and get it so it's operating as an industry sector, to take advantage of all the opportunities that are out there, to create as many jobs as possible," said Bradshaw.

But it's also profits that drive investors to the cleantech space.

Evan Lovell is the founder of the Virgin Green Fund, a private equity fund that invests in renewable energy and resource-related companies.

"And this sector is one of the few sectors around the world that's exhibiting double-digit growth, so that's attractive, number one," explained Lovell. "And number two, you're starting to see more liquidity in these marketplaces -- companies in this sector going public or being purchased by strategics that are looking to diversify their businesses away from traditional energy."

Lovell said one key to continued growth for cleantech is to go global.

"And so whatever your business is in this area you're going to have to be exporting out of the state of California to other countries and I think that's pretty important for those companies to be able to find the networks and connections to help do that," said Lovell.

To that end, CleanTECH San Diego is now part of the Global CleanTech Cluster Association.

CleanTECH's Bicker said clusters have been proven to stimulate investment opportunities and woo new investors.

"We're now partnering with international players, which can only help improve our economy," said Bicker. "We hope that we will continue to grow innovative companies and export those products and services around the globe."

Bicker said those global connections translate into more jobs in San Diego and profits for locally-based companies.

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