Mayors unveil plan to bolster green economy

Mayor R.T. Rybak, flanked by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, made a seemingly contradictory statement April 22: green jobs will be increasingly coming to Minnesota factories.

“Great cities don’t survive on coffee shops and condos alone,” Rybak said. “We have to make sure we keep manufacturing jobs and grow those jobs in the city.”

Leaders from both cities’ business, educational and technological communities — under the direction of the mayors — have formed a five-point plan to bring green-collar jobs to the Twin Cities.

The strategic plan, "Making it Green in Minneapolis Saint Paul," includes: aggressive marketing; “realigning” the cities’ economic development tools for industries of the future; growing markets for local suppliers; smoothing the way for green state policies and programs and forging further partnerships.

Together, Minneapolis and St. Paul are the fourth largest manufacturing metro area in the U.S., according to a prepared statement from Rybak’s office. The mayors will work along with the Blue Green Alliance, made of environmental, business and manufacturing professionals, to plant seeds for the future.

“Today we know that Earth Day and pay day are really one,” Rybak said.

The mayors were short on specifics regarding when, where and how many jobs would be created. However, Jerry Parzino, representative for United Steel Workers, announced 18,000 new green jobs would soon be coming to Minnesota.

Rybak said he would like to see a “green zone” stretching from University Enterprise Laboratories, just west of Highway 280 in St. Paul to the new Gopher Stadium.

The Mayors made bold environmental statements on Earth Day, announcing plans for labor, businesses and students on both sides of the Mississippi to get greener than St. Paul on St. Patrick’s Day.

“This is a road map,” Coleman said. “And on Earth Day it’s appropriate … we plant the trees that will grow to be the urban canopy of the future.”

The next step is to further examine the ever-changing marketplace, and set up green manufacturing zoning by using all parts of the city at once.

“It’s a whole new way of doing business,” Rybak said.

Rybak recognized Northeast Minneapolis upstart Innovent, which makes environmentally friendly heating and cooling systems, as an example of a leading green manufacturer.

“We’re growing and business is great,” said David Pflaum, one of three Innovent vice presidents.

Coleman agreed, saying he’d like to see a resurgence of St. Paul manufacturing sites at3M and Ford Motor Co. plants.

“If we do this right, we are going to set the tone for other communities across the country,” he said.