Green tech job creation sluggish

March 24, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The new UCLA Anderson Forecast on the California economy says the state's unemployment rate may have peaked. But it also predicts the jobless rate (now 12.5 percent) will remain in double digits through next year and development of new, green technology jobs will not go far in improving those numbers, despite a tax incentive signed Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger says there are already over 10,000 clean tech companies in California. He picked San Jose-based Nanosolar to serve as the backdrop as he signed a new law that exempts sales tax when clean tech companies buy equipment.

He says it is all about jobs.

"We don't want anyone to expand outside of California, we want them to create jobs here," Schwarzenegger said.

With the jobless rate over 12 percent, state and local officials are doing everything they can to foster green tech start-ups to create jobs.

San Jose, for example, sponsors an incubator called the Environmental Business Cluster.

"Our goal in San Jose is to facilitate the creation of 25,000 clean tech jobs," San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said. "We have about 4,000 now in San Jose but we're growing and adding them all the time."

However, green tech job creation has been held back by the overall economy and by venture capital drying up.

"When the capital crisis hit, it really took a lot of the steam out of the engine," Melinda Richter, head of the Environmental Business Cluster, said.

Yet the dream of green tech jobs continues. A solar tech class at Menlo Park's Job Train is popular, but not everyone gets a job when they finish the course.

"Eighty-one percent of our graduates did get jobs, but it's not where we want to be; we hope to do better than that," Job Train Executive Director Sharon Williams said.

State officials say 157,000 green tech jobs exist in California. However, there are naysayers who have crunched the numbers and call the green job engine a myth.

"It is definitely a myth in the short term," Paul Bachman said. Bachman is one of three researchers at Boston's Beacon Hill Institute that warns the success of green tech is tied to energy prices and global competition.

It is interesting to note that Reed was willing to put a figure on the number of green tech jobs he hopes will be created, whereas Schwarzenegger was reluctant do so.


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