Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's No Wonder Manufacturing Cities Yearn for Sustainable Industry

It's probably not a huge surprise to most folks that major manufacturing centers in the US had been left to languish and slowly crumble over the past 30 years, give or take, as the US took a turn toward shipping jobs overseas, and businesses streamlined to compete globally...which means greater manufacturing capacity, but a LOT fewer jobs. Cities like Detroit, Flint, and Muskegon have seen extended economic contraction going on for decades. So it's nice to see some good news now and then on the manufacturing horizon...

For one, Federal, State, and private investment in a green manufacturing revolution has started to actually put NEW FACTORIES into these communities. New factories have been nearly unheard of for decades, but we're starting to see companies moving in that build advanced car batteries, wind turbine parts, turbine blades, etc.

My home town, Muskegon, MI, with a U3 unemployment rate of over 10% going on several years now, is being eyed up as a potential industry hub for wind turbine part manufacturing and distribution.

We've got a centralized location, we've got the manufacturing capacity and are near other major manufacturing centers, and we've got a deep water port with access regions from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond. We've also got a lot of offshore wind.

Good gravy, we're looking at a potential multi-billion dollar industry right here in Muskegon, Michigan. All we need now is the right State and National policy to lend a sense of stability to potential investors...

That’s thanks to the region’s history of industrial and manufacturing innovation, which provides a platform for development, as well as the local and extensive maritime access through deepwater ports along Lake Michigan, key to enabling low-cost transportation of materials and finished components. Still needed, however, is additional infrastructure and policies to encourage investment.

“It’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking as much about economic development and job development here as we’re talking about alternative energy opportunities,” Boezaart said. “Not only is commercial wind development a renewable energy generating opportunity, but it really represents a chance for West Michigan to grab on to a piece of a new generation of manufacturing. This is a multimillion or even multibillion dollar business opportunity in terms of sales, manufacturing value and economic development for the area.”

West Michigan has a long history of extractive, boom and bust industries. We had a short and very lucrative boom harvesting clam shells for button sales back in the 1920s and 1930s and that left the native clam population devastated, likely never to recover.

We had a lumber boom that made Muskegon one of the wealthiest cities in America for a couple decades and that lasted until many of the old growth forests were wiped out.

We even had a short lived oil boom.

And in the 1940s we had a huge industrial surge to build weapons for WWII. The population in Muskegon increased to the point where people had to share rooms on three 8 hour shifts, just long enough to sleep. Old, historic homes were split up into multiple rooms to make for fast housing to meet the demand....and when the war was over...people went back to the regions they had come from and the city of Muskegon was left to clean up the shuttered industrial aftermath and the overused historic buildings.

For those who understand how industrial cities have traditionally worked, it should be no wonder why so many are now hungry for sustainable industries...industries that aren't extractive, industries that aren't boom and bust, industries that will leave our environment a CLEANER place rather than the other way around.

This move toward renewable energy shows great promise.

No comments: