Florida’s green rock stars pump up the economic volume

May 20, 2009

Intel’s new television commercial featuring Ajay Bhatt, co-inventor of the USB port, should be seen as more than a clever marketing ploy.  It’s a signal of the official promotion of “geeks” from odd cast-outs to a much higher status, one of techno demi-gods and possibly the rescuers of our weak economy.

Wonks across the country are speculating that a particular flavor of “geek” might outpace the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mr. Bhatt.  The flavor is “green” and this new tasty sensation has its eyes on the traditional sectors like energy, manufacturing, construction and finance.

Meet the new rock stars of America’s recession: green entrepreneurs.

These eco-capitalists are putting out off-the-chart hits with new green factories, tens of thousands of green jobs, and business ventures that are pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into Florida’s fragile economy.  Just this year, Florida International University researchers made history by discovering a new single-element compound, a breakthrough that could rewrite chemistry books.

Another Orlando area rock star is Dr. Demitri Nikitin, founder of Advanced Solar Photonics who is currently building Florida’s first solar panel manufacturing plant in Lake Mary.  Nikitin holds a Ph.D. in Science and has participated in and co-developed over 100 inventions and applications related to the laser and electronics industries.

“We are growing a 500MW facility, bringing approximately 1,500 green jobs in the next two years.  We are the only manufacturer that can boast that 100% of the components and materials of our monocrystalline panels will be made in America.  Even the equipment used for production is made in the United States,”  said Nikitin.

If green is the new red, white and blue, then Floridians are somewhere between Caribbean Green and Electric Lime.

Take a new Florida city, Babcock Ranch, which will power 19,500 homes by solar power and cost the average customer’s monthly bill an additional 31 cents.  This will be the first city on earth powered by zero-emission solar energy.  The new city is being developed by Kitson & Partners on 17,000 acres northeast of Fort Myers.  The city will include the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant, which will be operated by Florida Power & Light.

More green developments are being celebrated at this week’s Green Cities™ Florida – a sustainability conference being held May 20-21 in Orlando.  There’s no opening act, just a stage packed with the heavy hitters of the new green economy – an economy green devotees claim is the answer to America’s economic woes.  The event organizers are focusing on training specific to the construction industry this year, already anticipating a turnaround in Florida’s building market for 2010.

Case in point: Mike Italiano.  He’s President & Chief Executive Officer for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS) and Capital Markets Partnership.  Italiano has over 35 years of environmental experience including Senior Analyst in the White House Science Office and Assistant to the Director, National Commission on Water Quality where he helped write the Congressional Report on the Clean Water Act.

Italiano is leading the green pack to green money.  As co-founder of America’s biggest green construction association, the United States Green Building Council, he has successfully worked on getting the financial industry to back green construction and products with the new Capital Markets Partnership.

“Getting the capital market to move forward with green building certified sustainable products can literally get us out of this recession; prevent a depression.  And we’re working to make sure that all the groundwork is laid and top management can understand that we can get the financial institutions and governments to realize it and move forward in a united front to commercialize both of these activities, which is over an $800 billion market.  That’s just in the U.S.,” Italiano stated.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi and others are signatories to the Capital Markets Partnership which has developed a new green underwriting standard for residential, commercial and industrial construction backed by municipal bonds.

“The science of sustainability is what convinced the banks to sign,” says Italiano.  “The proof that green science pays in the long term, could no longer be ignored, especially when explained in scientific terms.  Sustainability is an economic technology that will turn this recession around, conserve resources and stimulate the job growth we need.”

Written by Joleen Deatherage for Green Buzz.

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