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Clinton Global Initiative in IL: Brainstorming for Jobs

June 30, 2011

CHICAGO - Hundreds of business leaders, politicians and nonprofit leaders are brainstorming this week at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, hoping to find ways to create jobs in Illinois and around the nation.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, is talking to the leaders about how investing in clean energy worked for her state. Federal and state incentives, she says, gave a jump-start to a new industry: building batteries for electric vehicles.

"In the space of about a year and a half. we were able to convince 17 battery companies or their suppliers to locate inside Michigan, and those companies promised to create 63,000 jobs."

Granholm says Illinois is also moving in the right direction.

"One of the things that Illinois should be very proud of is that they are a leader in wind, both wind production as well as the manufacturing jobs associated with it."

Granholm says 28,000 Illinois jobs have been created in the wind-energy industry.

Even with such initiatives, the United States lags behind China and Germany in clean-energy jobs, according to a recent study by Pew Charitable Trusts. Granholm, who now advises for Pew, says that's why it's important for policymakers to prioritize clean energy.

"They're not worshiping at the same altar of the free markets that the United States grew up on, and they are aggressively choosing to intervene in the global economy to create jobs for their citizens."

China now produces more than 50 percent of the solar panels for the world market, Granholm says, in part because it created a goal of getting 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 - something she says the United States could do easily to create a market and jobs here.

"Once you set that goal, businesses know, 'Now, if I build it in the United States, my product will be sold here.' And it doesn't cost one dime to set a standard."

With an estimated 37 million clean-energy jobs to be created around the world by 2020, Granholm says, that smart strategic partnering between the public and private sector is an important way to get a larger share of the world's clean-energy market.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL