Banking on Green
Tri-county economic conference boosts eco-friendly biz.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Last year, it was California’s global warming law; this year, environmentally friendly enterprise. Though some are quicker than others to embrace it, local business leaders are coming to terms with a new economic reality: Go green or bust.
On Friday, Jan. 23, the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments’ 15th annual economic conference focuses on the “Next Wave of Green Innovation for the Monterey Bay Region.”
“The idea is that there’s an emerging economy happening,” says AMBAG Management Assistant Rebecca Lorentz. “How can this region benefit economically from the green push?”
Despite its leafy title, the conference isn’t about tree-hugger ethics– it’s about supply and demand. As the recession deepens, AMBAG organizers see a market opportunity in the mainstreaming of environmentalism.
“People are finally getting the message that green is good,” says Monterey County Business Council CEO Mary Claypool, who helped plan the conference.
When it comes to green reform, however, the conference’s featured politicians are a mix of leaders and foot-draggers. Giving the welcome is Sand City Mayor David Pendergrass, better known for his friendliness to developers than to dune habitat. Green-tinted speakers include Assembly Democrats Anna Caballero, who earned 8/10 on her 2008 Sierra Club voting record, and political newcomer Bill Monning. But Republican state senators Jeff Denham and Abel Maldonado, who earned 0/7 and 4/7 on their Sierra Club report cards, respectively, are also slated to speak.
The first keynoter, Golden Capital Network CEO Jon Gregory, will discuss investment trends and the local “innovation economy.” His clients are in the investment game for financial return, he says, not to make the planet healthier.
“Those are excellent side-benefits, for sure,” he adds. “It just happens that in today’s world, the growing recognition of the desire to reduce the carbon footprint has led to opportunities in clean and green business opportunities.”
The agenda takes a greener turn with a talk by Collaborative Economics CEO Doug Henton, “Clean Technology and the Green Economy,” followed by a panel of local green innovators: Jeremiah Ridenour of Freedom-based WISE Solutions, which produces biodegradable lubricants and colloidal cleaners, and a representative of Calera Corporation, which produces a carbon-neutral cement in Moss Landing.
The Monterey Bay region is a bit behind the green curve, admits Claypool, who will moderate the panel.
“[Businesses] weren’t willing to go there until there was more demand,” she says. “We can tell ’em from now until doomsday that green is the place you should be, but until there are business opportunities, it’s not gonna resonate. The consumers are driving the green economy.”