A few years ago, Craig Winn launched a new company with two employees and a good idea: leverage the auto industry’s engineering prowess to improve solar manufacturing. Three years later, the Michigan-based company has hired nearly 50 workers and doubled its production capacity. The secret to its success is using precision techniques from car manufacturing to make the metal frames that hold solar panels. Business has been so good the company is opening a new plant in Ohio this year.
This is just one of thousands of success stories emerging from the clean energy sector right now. Across the country, clean energy entrepreneurs are embodying the best elements of America’s can-do capitalism: ingenuity, resourcefulness, daring, and triumph. And their innovative ideas are generating jobs and economic growth in the process.
In the last quarter alone, clean energy companies announced more than 70 projects leading to as many as 37,000 job openings, according to new analysis released by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), the national group of 800-plus business leaders who support sound economic and environmental policies.
These new job postings appeared in 30 different states. Nearly one-third were concentrated in the Midwest, including Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, confirming that clean technologies are breathing new life into Rust Belt communities.
Some of these jobs are being created by large corporations. Panasonic, for instance, is investing $8.16 million in a facility in Michigan to research sound systems and human-machine interaction in electric vehicles. GE announced plans to add 300 jobs at its advanced vehicle manufacturing center in Michigan.
Other job announcements come from small businesses, like the Solar Specialist, a female-owned business in Canton, Michigan. The company designs and installs solar and other renewable equipment for homes and commercial buildings. It has between 15 and 25 local employees and contractors performing jobs in Southeast Michigan.
A major part of the clean energy industry is a risk, however, because of uncertainty over the federal Production Tax Credit. These incentives have helped spur growth in the wind sector, and they enjoy broad bipartisan support. Yet some lawmakers want to let the incentives expire at the end of this year—a move that would put an estimated 37,000 wind industry employees out of work.