While the current financial crisis has stoked worries about our economic future, the need for an innovative approach to economic growth is taking root in places like Newark, New Jersey.
In a city where 40% of the men are unemployed and 31% of children live in poverty, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, asserts that sustainable economic development offers a wealth of opportunity. Mayor Booker’s effort to make Newark a “showcase of sustainable development” was solidified by the Green Futures Summit, a two-day event focused on initiatives to green the community and bolster the city’s lagging economy.
The Apollo Alliance, the City of Newark, and the Clinton Global Initiative hosted the Green Futures Summit to spur dialogue around the creation of Newark’s sustainability roadmap. Agenda items included economic development, workforce development, green building, open space, and community and youth initiatives.
Mayor Booker issued a call to action that highlights the triple bottom line, “Focusing on green in the urban context is meeting a moral imperative, an economic urgency, and an energy crisis. In Newark, we know that with renewable and efficient energy we can have a triple win: we can find a way to clean our environment, to create jobs, and to generate wealth in sections of our city that have been closed out of real and substantive economic opportunity for generations.”
Green Futures Summit opened with Deane Evans, executive director of NJIT’s Center for Architecture and Building Science Research, championing the restoration of Newark’s buildings as the city develops, saying, “Energy efficient rehabilitation of Newark’s buildings is a critical path to a sustainable, green future for Newark and its citizens.” Evans continued to emphasize the potential opportunities for the local workforce with increased demand for sustainable construction.
Ralph Izzo, CEO of the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), one of the ten largest electric companies in the States with its headquarters in Newark, gave the keynote address. Izzo discussed green initiatives and workforce development opportunities at PSEG, announcing “projects that will require an expanded workforce,” that could benefit city residents. The company plans to ramp up efforts to weatherize buildings, increase solar power, and build a wind farm in southern Jersey.
Green for All, a partner behind the Green Futures Summit, is lobbying for a green energy corps, which would offer folks a path out of poverty while building a green economy. In their recent report on the green job market, the Center for American Progress and University of Massachusetts-Amherst, discuss the potential for the creation of over 50,000 jobs in New Jersey – that is, depending on serious financial investment.
However, with Washington in chaos as Congress cobbles together an economic rescue plan, stimulus measures including the creation of large-scale public infrastructure projects are under consideration. Is it too great a leap to hope this economic crisis will provide the impetus for the necessary investment in green jobs?
According to Mayor Booker, “The American Dream is a Green Dream.”