Employment: Green Jobs, Entrepreneurship, Growth

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In 2001, Gerry Ferns, a resident of Ingersoll, Ontario, found himself confronting an all too familiar scene of rising fuel prices. It threatened his livelihood and that of a number of people in his community. Not ready to accept the status quo, he investigated an old technology and founded a new company. The technology was ‘geothermal heating and cooling’ and the company Just Geothermal Systems Ltd.

A decade later the world finds itself in a similar situation with an unpredictable economy, rising energy prices and a massive oil spill threatening the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, in the past nine years, government legislation, political will and access to information has resulted in a boom in the number of small business who have explored and built on the ‘green entrepreneurship model’. They have not just found financial success, but discovered consumers’ growing appetite for these eco-friendly technologies. The green entrepreneurship model has emerged as the only one that can deliver jobs, economic prosperity and a sustainable growth without polluting the environment. Ontario fortunately is at the head of this paradigm shift, with its Green Energy Act and Feed in Tariff (FiT) program. The green economy is expanding rapidly and creating jobs, new business and investment opportunities.

Earlier this year, a Korean consortium announced an investment of 7 billion dollars in Ontario, which not just promises green energy for the province, but will also help create 16,000 new jobs. It will generate 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power, providing clean energy to more than 580,000 households. Such projects will need engineers, installers, transporters and support staff to help build, install and operate them. There is a big change underway and those who can recognize it in advance can benefit from it whether they are investors, entrepreneurs, suppliers or job seekers.

Modern consumers are well informed, aware and prepared to make the right choices – right from source of energy, mode of transport, food they eat down to their choice of dish washing liquid or the plants growing in their garden. This demand is creating a whole new breed of entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals.

Rob Grand, who opened the Toronto-based Grass Roots Store in 1994, says “When I started out there was not much awareness about making the right choices. We had to appeal to the customers on an emotional level, but now we have more informed and aware consumers. They ask for environment friendly solutions.”

Grass Roots offers environmentally-friendly products that allow people to make positive choices for themselves, their communities and the planet. It has branched out to two stores and Grand says, “Every single company these days needs to have a green offering, either in the form of its products or services. A green renaissance is underway, and no one wants to be a laggard (a slow person). New companies and concepts are leading the field, and a number of them are SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprises). A whole new frontier is opening up.”

His thoughts are echoed by Dr. Ron Dembo, founder and CEO of Zerofootprint, another Toronto-based company that provides software and consulting solutions for corporations and multinational organizations wanting to reduce their environmental footprint.

Dr. Dembo says, “Greening the world is a big opportunity. It is creating a large number of job opportunities in all kinds of areas – right from research, retrofitting buildings, green energy installations, software coding, architectural planning, engineering and energy audit. For new immigrants adjusting to a new country, often getting a job means a career change and these new niches offer a whole new world of opportunities.”

He cites the example of an enterprise which started a couple of years ago as a small two person team setting up geothermal systems in northern Ontario, which today has grown into a 15-person operation with an annual turnover of a couple of million dollars.

Dr. Anthony Watanabe, CEO of The Innovolve Group says, “I am excited with the whole entrepreneurship aspect of the green economy. Especially the Green Energy Act which has spurred a lot of action in the renewable energy sector. Right from the manufacturing plant to the installer on the ground there is a whole value chain that needs to be supported. Innovative programs like FiT mean there will be a tremendous increase in ‘green collar’ jobs and investment opportunities. We need professionals who are trained and committed to a green vision for our community.” He advises new immigrants to focus on these new technologies.

Whether it is leasing your rooftop or backyard to a photovoltaic company (that converts solar energy into electricity) or using the right detergent, the green economy promises to have a positive impact on every segment of the society. Dr. Watanabe adds, “It is wonderful to be able to build a company, create jobs, be kind to the nature and at the same time add value to the community we live in.” All it requires is a bit of thought, commitment and discipline.

The green sector has emerged as one of the fastest growing segments of the economy – whether it is carbon trading, green retailing, consulting or starting an eco-friendly pool cleaning business.

The numbers speak for themselves. Venture capital investment in clean technology (including solar, biofuels, batteries and the smart grid) has overtaken the IT and biotech sector in terms of its share of the Venture Capital pie. The sector accounted for 27 percent of all investment in the third quarter of 2009 – valued at 1.6 billion dollars.

Feed-in Tariff – A policy mechanism designed to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources and to help accelerate the move toward grid parity. Includes
1) Guaranteed grid access,
2) Long-term contracts for the electricity produced, and
3) Purchase prices that are based on the cost of renewable energy generation.cnm

More Information:

10 Ideas For Green Enterprises
1. Green Salons
2. Green Business Consulting
3. Organic Foods for Restaurants
4. Recycling Business
5. Green Roofs
6. Natural Pest Control
7. Green Maids
8. Eco Tourism
9. Green Taxi
10. Non Toxic Pool Cleaning Service

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