Study: Political leadership, policy draw green jobs, capital to Colorado

A new report by an independent Montana-based nonprofit research group indicates Colorado is well ahead of other Rocky Mountain states in developing a green energy economy.

Produced by Headwaters Economics, the report concludes that the combination of public policy decisions, strong political leadership, solid public research institutions and creative business incentives have made Colorado a national leader in clean tech industries, ahead of surrounding Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana.

“The green economy already contributes positively to Colorado’s economy and it has been growing rapidly in terms of job creation, investment, and production,” report author Julia Haggerty, Ph.D., said in a release.

“While Colorado has not been immune to the global recession, the green economy has been a bright spot of economic dynamism in challenging times,” she said. “Colorado is poised to hold onto its strong leadership position, as long as the state continues to show strong policy and financial leadership.”

Headwaters contracts with numerous public-sector entities to research key public policy issues. Past reports have examined wildfire mitigation policies in Colorado and across the West and the economic and social impacts of boom-and-bust traditional energy sector jobs on areas such as Colorado’s Western Slope.

The latest report by Headwaters, entitled “Clean Energy Leadership in the Rockies: Competitive Positioning in the Emerging Green Economy,” found that Colorado saw an overall job-growth rate of 19 percent between 1995 and 2007 compared to 10 percent nationally. But so-called “green jobs” grew at a 30 percent clip in that same time period, compared to 18 percent nationally.

According to the report, Colorado was home to half the 3,567 green businesses in the five-state region in 2007, with Utah and New Mexico tied at 16 percent, Montana coming in at 11 percent and Wyoming home to just 6 percent of the region’s green enterprises.

Colorado attracted 75 percent of the region’s venture capital in the clean-tech sector (nearly $800 million) between 1999 and 2008, the report found, contributing to a 109 percent jump in renewable energy production – wind, solar and geothermal – between 1990 and 2007.

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