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Posted: September 01, 2010

Colorado’s cleantech industry needs a strong voice

By Christine Shapard

Colorado is poised to become a world leader in the cleantech industry - if we're smart enough to take advantage of our strong position.

Consider these impressive stats - Colorado is No. 3 in the U.S. for cleantech venture capital financing; we're No. 4 in the country for percentage of jobs in the cleantech sector, and the state is home to more than 300 companies producing cleantech products. According to Pew Charitable Trusts, Colorado's cleantech industry is growing faster than the state's other industry sectors.
Pretty impressive stats for a less-populated state like Colorado, aren't they? We think so, and that's why we started the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association (CCIA). We aim to create a business climate that not only helps the state maintain its globally recognized clean technology leadership position, but also enables us to jump ahead and lead the world.

For too long the "us versus them" mentality between traditional energy and new energy and the political divisiveness it has engendered has taken the focus away from the more important issues of worldwide power needs, national security, job creation and international economic competitiveness.

If we are to meet the power needs of the latter decades of the 21st century, we will need every type of energy source and efficiency measure to be economically viable and available within the United States. Ensuring that Colorado innovations and products are in the market to meet the world's energy demands is something we all can support. And as Colorado business leaders, it's something we all should - even must! - support.

But we are at a delicate tipping point - while Colorado has an opportunity be a world leader, we could also lose it all. That's where the CCIA's voice and, ultimately, its mission come into play.
In essence, the CCIA is the voice of the cleantech industry. It is our members - including companies in the wind, solar, biofuels, smart grid, efficient building materials, other cleantech materials, water, air, energy storage and clean transportation sectors - that drive our goals and objectives.

Little, therefore, can be accomplished without the engagement of our stakeholders throughout the state. That's why the public sector, Colorado's research institutions, federal labs, and support service providers are all active participants in our board, committees and action-planning efforts.

To fulfill our mission of fostering a business climate that enables Colorado to become the global leader in cleantech, we have to attract and develop the three types of capital - human, financial and political - that are vital to the growth of the cleantech industry.

This means working to ensure that talent - executive, engineering and technical - is aligned with the needs of our cleantech companies; that investment - seed, venture, project and government financing - is being formed and attracted to the state; and that political leaders - Colorado's municipal and county officials, general assembly and congressional delegation - recognize the importance of the cleantech industry to Colorado's economy.

The stakes are high. Even with these relationships in place, if the state's assets aren't aligned with industry needs or we don't address the barriers that exist in the state, then we stand to lose our prominence on the world's cleantech stage.

That's why the CCIA is taking on the development of the state's cleantech action plan and will coordinate and drive the implementation of its initiatives and policies. The publicly available Colorado Cleantech Action Plan, with a planned October launch, will give the state and the cleantech industry stakeholders a three- to five-year road map for growing Colorado's cleantech industries.

Traditional stakeholders, including the public sector, research institutions and industry, are involved in the steering committee, as are other important partners, such as the state's utilities and natural gas industry. We hope you will take an opportunity to review this document, which will be available on the CCIA's website at www.ColoradoCleantech.com .

Colorado has a fantastic chance to challenge California and even China in certain sectors, so we must expand our supportive infrastructure of capital, work force and policy. If we can step up together and create game-changing initiatives, we are poised to leapfrog our competitors.
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