New Report Highlights Local Chambers of Commerce As Clean Energy Change Agents

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(May 15, 2013) While clean energy progress remains slow at the national level, local chambers of commerce are taking the reins in their local communities to drive economic development around clean energy, according to a first-of-its-kind report released today by Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy. With ten in-depth case studies of chambers located throughout the country, Local Chambers as Change Agents: Creating Economic Vitality through Clean Energy and Innovation provides the first comprehensive look into local chambers’ roles in attracting investment, supporting business growth, and diversifying their local economies around clean energy and energy efficiency.

“Lots of attention has been paid to clean energy progress at the national and state levels, but real innovation and economic growth is happening in local communities across America thanks to local chambers of commerce,” said Diane Doucette, Executive Director of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy. “From saving businesses millions of dollars through energy efficiency upgrades in Ohio to sparking clean energy demonstration sites in South Carolina and Texas, local chambers know that clean energy is a critical tool to help businesses increase competitiveness and improve their bottom lines.”

Based on surveys of hundreds of local chambers of commerce, CICE’s report highlights ten chambers in Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Utah, Tennessee, Michigan, Massachusetts, and California. By catalyzing clean energy projects in their own communities and convening stakeholders— including policymakers, regulators, entrepreneurs, investors, academics, and labor groups—around clean energy efforts, these chambers are spurring new business opportunities for local companies and giving their member businesses a voice in policy discussions around clean energy and energy efficiency.

“As this report shows, local chambers in Ohio and throughout the country understand that efficient and clean energy make smart business sense,” Nicole Stika, Senior Director of Energy Services at the Council of Smaller Enterprises, the small business partner of the local Cleveland chamber, the Greater Cleveland Partnership. “Even chambers in states known for oil and coal production are helping their members dramatically reduce their energy use and utility bills using simple energy efficiency upgrades.”

The report includes case studies from states long known for manufacturing, where local chambers are sparking new market opportunities for their member companies through clean energy initiatives. In Flint, Michigan, the local chamber is helping to increase demand for electric vehicles, supporting local manufacturers that produce EV engines. And in Asheville, North Carolina, the local chamber’s new network to coordinate shipping routes among manufacturers is helping companies realize significant fuel savings. 

“With a straightforward fuel efficiency project, we’re helping our Asheville manufacturers cut dead-head miles and save tens of thousands of gallons of fuel,” said Tim Lampkin, Director of Retention & Expansion Services for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Coalition. “These savings and other innovative measures will ensure manufacturing in Western North Carolina remains a viable sector.” 

The ten local chambers profiled in depth in the new report include:

OHIO: Council of Smaller Enterprises, Greater Cleveland Partnership

With the largest and most comprehensive chamber-led energy efficiency program in the country, the Council of Smaller Enterprises—the small business partner of the local chamber, the Greater Cleveland Partnership—helped its member companies realize more than $13.4 million in energy efficiency savings in 2012 alone. COSE is now working to create its own energy efficiency loan program to further boost energy savings in the private sector.

NORTH CAROLINA: Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

Recognizing that its local manufacturers were paying to transport empty shipping containers back to Asheville, the Asheville Area Chamber established the Western North Carolina Transportation Alliance, an innovative statewide network of companies to coordinate transportation and shipping routes. This network has already helped save businesses more than 44,000 gallons of fuel in 2011 alone.

SOUTH CAROLINA: North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce

In this coastal tourist town, the North Myrtle Beach Chamber championed a project to transform its community into a wind energy demonstration site. Thanks to the Chamber’s efforts, South Carolina installed its first grid-connected wind turbine in 2010. Now, small test turbines dot the beachfront, creating a future test bed for entrepreneurs and sharing data to help train local engineering students.

TEXAS: Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

Within one of the largest oil and natural gas producing states in the nation, the Greater Austin Chamber has become a clean-tech recruiting powerhouse. Leveraging its close ties to the University of Texas at Austin and the city’s municipally owned utility, the Chamber recruited 20 clean-tech companies to date, and co-founded Pecan Street Inc., a cutting-edge demonstration site for smart-grid entrepreneurs.

MASSACHUSETTS: Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce

The Merrimack Valley Chamber partnered with Nexamp, a local clean-energy solutions provider, to help 46 companies in Northeast Massachusetts save more than $30 million collectively over the next 30 years through energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation. The Chamber’s Clean Energy Program helped spark the largest solar projects in both Haverhill and Lawrence, Massachusetts.

UTAH: Salt Lake Chamber

With Salt Lake City’s poor air quality hurting business attraction and retention, the Salt Lake Chamber worked with local companies to cut fuel use and boost their bottom lines. The Salt Lake Chamber’s Clean Air Champions program has already resulted in millions of dollars in savings for local companies, including UPS, which has saved more than 10 million gallons of fuel since 2004, and the mining company Rio Tinto, which saves an average of $1.65 million per year with its new no-idling policy for trucks.

ILLINOIS: Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

For years, failures in Chicago’s outdated electric grid have been devastating to businesses, including big energy users like Groupon and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Chicagoland Chamber led a broad coalition to advocate for smart grid legislation in Illinois, putting the state and its electric grid on the path to meet the growing energy needs of Chicago businesses.

TENNESEE: Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce

Headed by a former Marine, the Bartlett Chamber’s Team Green Zone is on a mission to help member companies cut their energy use and save money. This innovative network brings in revenue for the chamber by performing energy benchmarks and assessments, developing efficiency action plans, and helping businesses implement upgrades. In only two years, Team Green Zone has already helped 43 companies benchmark their energy use and implement efficiency projects valued at $5.5 million.

MICHIGAN: Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce

Known for its advanced manufacturing, Flint, Michigan is home to a new chamber-led network that is driving economic development and the supply and demand for innovative energy solutions. The E3 innovation Network helps all stakeholders interested in energy savings—from fleet-holders with large energy demands to clean-tech innovators—network to find new business opportunities. To spur electric vehicle demand and support local manufacturers within EV supply chains, the Chamber also partnered with a statewide coalition to study Michigan’s EV infrastructure needs. Genesee County welcomed the nation’s first solar-powered charging station for the Chevy Volt in June 2011. 

CALIFORNIA: San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

With long travel times presenting a challenge for fast-moving businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area, the SF Chamber led business advocacy efforts for statewide high-speed rail, which passed through a California ballot measure in 2008. High-speed rail will allow commuters from the Central Valley and Sacramento to more easily access workplaces in San Francisco, and will boost economic activity from tourism as travel times decrease. The SF Chamber brought other local chambers on board, helped shape high-speed rail planning routes, and educated policymakers and the public on the economic benefits of high-speed rail. 

CICE’s report, Local Chambers as Change Agents, is available here: http://www.chambersforinnovation.com/changeagents/ 

About Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy: Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE) is a national Clean Energy network and Information Hub for local chambers of commerce. Created and led by local chambers, CICE helps fellow chambers and their member companies successfully navigate and prosper in the clean energy space. CICE provides access to clean energy information, best practices, energy experts, incentives, and business opportunities. CICE’s Advisory Council includes Chamber CEOs from every region of the country. Visit CICE at www.chambersforinnovation.com.

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