|East Bay Green Corridor Partnership
Launched in Richmond's Historic Ford Building
December 4, 2007
The sun made an appropriate and perfectly scheduled morning appearance, shining brightly through the south-facing windows of the 40,000 square foot craneway of the historic Ford Assembly Building as mayors of four waterfront cities, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Director Steven Chu convened in Richmond to launch the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership. That Richmond would host this event was particularly significant but not accidental.
The Ford Assembly building is coming into its own as an extraordinary event venue. Without the star power of the landmark building and its premier waterfront location, green businesses now in the Ford Building such as SunPower and Vetrazzo would probably not have come to Richmond at all. This was the first visit by many to Richmondís waterfront, and I can tell you that they were impressed with what they saw.
Four cities to go green together
∑ Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and Emeryville form alliance to nurture environmental industry
Article Launched: 12/04/2007 03:01:05 AM PST
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Sunpower's Matt Campbell cleans a solar array before a ceremony relating to the establishment of...
Rather than be rivals, the mayors of four East Bay cities vowed Monday to work together to create a "green corridor" to do for this region what high tech has done for Silicon Valley: create jobs and revenue with the added bonus of being environmentally friendly.
Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville and Oakland will nurture the green industry together and go after federal money to train locals so they can land jobs in the field. An annual summit will examine progress and how to move forward, officials said. The economic development directors for each city will hold similar local forums quarterly.
"What we're doing is putting down our cities' chauvinism and saying, 'Look, we're all part of the area and need to work together,'" Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said.
"We're going to catch the green wave, and everyone's going to be on the same boat."
The group announced the pact Monday against a backdrop of solar panels in Richmond's historic Ford Building, where solar systems designer and manufacturer SunPower Corp. will begin operations in two weeks.
The idea for a "green corridor" partnership was born over dinner several months ago when UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau invited the mayors to his house to talk about enhancing the region. Nothing usually comes out of his dinner parties, he said, but this time was different.
The cities promise to create programs and policies that promote energy conservation, green construction, a green industry and more. They plan collectively to seek state, federal and private money for research, job training and job placement targeting high school and community college students. UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory will continue research in environmental technology, including solar energy and biofuels.
"Having all four of us ask for the same thing as a unified group will have a much greater impact," Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said the effort will help reverse poverty in the East Bay. And the region would become "the nucleus of a revolution" that could touch off green thinking nationwide, Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis said.
The green industry has carved out a considerable name for itself in recent years. Bay Area companies in a category that includes green tech and energy and related industries landed $168 million in venture capital financing in the second quarter of this year, a 48 percent increase from the year before.
Richmond-based MBA Polymers, which recycles plastics, was among those landing a large chunk of financing, with $20 million.
Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond each has taken steps to become greener. Berkeley, long considered the greenest of them all, banned polystyrene foam two decades ago. Last year, its voters became the first in the country to pass a ballot measure directing the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Oakland has banned polystyrene foam and traditional plastic bags. Emeryville passed its own ban earlier this year.
Tonight, the Richmond City Council will decide whether to study a possible polystyrene ban of its own. Officials in Richmond also are studying the possibility of footing the upfront cost for property owners to install solar panels. The money would be paid back on property tax bills over 20 years.
Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
East Bay mayors, UC chancellor unite for 'Green Wave'
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
East Bay leaders, hoping to capitalize on the energy research emerging from UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley lab, vowed Monday to create a regional environmental hub that would mirror the success of Silicon Valley.
The mayors of Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and Emeryville, along with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory director Steven Chu, announced an agreement to promote the East Bay as the nucleus of a "green wave" of research and manufacturing.
"The Silicon Valley of the green economy is going to be here in the East Bay," Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said at Monday's event, held at a solar power equipment factory in Richmond. "We're putting our cities' chauvinism aside and working together. We're stronger when we unite."
The East Bay is already home to many environmental firms and factories, many of which began as spin-offs from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Lab. But as the companies grow, they've tended to relocate to the South Bay, where lab space, technological support and high-tech employees are more plentiful, or to places with more vacant land.
The East Bay Green Corridor Partnership would create a variety of incentives for green businesses to stay put. Among the proposals: a job-training program for the less-skilled members of the workforce, such as a certification program at local community colleges in solar installation or biotechnology lab work.
Green business executives in the East Bay said they are thrilled with the move.
"For us, we see great opportunities in the East Bay because it's so close to the university and lab," said Ilan Gur, corporate development director of Seeo, a Berkeley startup that is studying ways to increase energy storage. "A lot of people don't want to commute to the South Bay, but the South Bay has a very well-established infrastructure to help young businesses," he said. "We'd like to create something similar here."
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the plan would be a boon to their cities because it could provide training and entry-level jobs, possibly reducing crime in the process. Oakland and Richmond also have ample space and industrial zones for companies that want to expand.
"This is a magnificent opportunity for us to simultaneously address the issues of pollution and poverty," Dellums said. "This kind of economic development can help a generation of people who've been left behind."
Birgeneau said that keeping energy startups close to UC Berkeley and the Lawrence lab will help further the university's goal of studying alternative energy and ultimately reducing global warming.
If the East Bay becomes fertile ground for green businesses to prosper, UC Berkeley would be a more attractive choice for "the best minds in the world" to study global energy production, he said.
In the past few months, UC Berkeley has been showered with funding for energy research.
In February, UC Berkeley and the Lawrence lab finalized plans for the Energy Biosciences Institute, funded with a $500 million gift from the energy giant BP. In June, the university and lab, among other agencies, announced a $125 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to create the Joint Bio Energy Institute, which will focus on biofuel research.
In October, the university announced a $10 million gift from Dow Chemical to study sustainability.
Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville and Richmond have also taken aggressive steps to combat global warming, ranging from Oakland's goal to be independent of oil by 2020 to Berkeley's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
So far, economic directors of the four cities, UC Berkeley and the Lawrence lab have agreed to meet quarterly to study regional labor needs and come up with solutions to business problems such as lack of space or workforce shortages. They're also planning to apply for federal money to fund job-training programs.
The East Bay Green Corridor eventually hopes to create a permanent council to study and promote the East Bay's green businesses.
E-mail Carolyn Jones at email@example.com.