Guest post by Secretary Collin O’Mara, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, originally published in The News Journal
Imagine if our nation missed the greatest economic opportunity of this century.
While the Congressional climate and energy debate has devolved into gridlock, nations around the globe are positioning themselves to dominate the $6 trillion energy market and seize millions of related manufacturing and research jobs at America’s expense.
In the U.S., we have been presented with a false choice that pits economic prosperity against environmental sustainability. This dichotomy could not be further from the truth. Embedded within the great challenges of our time — addressing climate change, achieving energy independence, balancing our trade deficit, and reducing global conflict — are incredible market opportunities that can help revitalize the American economy, expand domestic manufacturing, and rebuild our middle class. This is the promise of climate prosperity.
The consequences of inaction could be catastrophic. If we allow greenhouse gas emissions to continue unchecked, global climate change will raise sea levels, exacerbating flooding along Delaware’s coast. Climate change will also cause drought and crop losses, intense storms, habitat destruction and geopolitical conflict. Not to mention the billions of dollars in domestic health-related costs each year that can be attributed to the burning coal and oil.
The transition to a clean-energy economy represents a critical part of the solution to these interconnected issues as well as an unparalleled opportunity.
The average American family and business spends nearly 10 percent of their income on energy-related expenses. We send $250 billion abroad each year to import foreign oil and other fossil fuels. Fortunately, we have technologies emerging that will reduce the amount we spend on energy dramatically and keep more dollars here at home.
Yet despite the gridlock in Washington, nimble and close-knit states like Delaware can seize opportunities today and lay a strong foundation for long-term prosperity. Delaware’s competitive advantages of innovation, a skilled workforce, and responsive government position the state to seize emerging market opportunities.
Key markets for Delaware include energy efficiency and building materials; renewable energy such as solar, fuel cells, and offshore wind; plug-in electric vehicles; and sustainable chemistry.
Under Governor Markell’s leadership, we have found common ground and strong bipartisan support for market-based mechanisms that achieve environmental outcomes while spurring private sector competition, investment, and growth. With innovative policies supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy, we are establishing Delaware as a national leader.
Over the past year, we have seen inspiring advances and growth by cutting-edge companies, such as DuPont, Ashland Hercules, WL Gore, Motech, Ion Power, Air Liquide, Fisker, Autoport, SolarDock, White Optics, and numerous efficiency and renewable energy providers. These great companies are already employing thousands of Delawareans in research, manufacturing, and deployment of next-generation technologies and serve as the building blocks of our clean energy economy.
Now, we must integrate the great work occurring across Delaware into a coordinated statewide effort. In addition to strong leadership from the private sector, creative initiatives are being launched by committed local governments, advocacy organizations, religious institutions, and citizens. Bold sustainability campaigns are underway on the campuses of UD, DelTech, DelState, Wesley, Wilmington, Widener, and secondary educational institutions. Delmarva, the Electric Co-op, municipal utilities and the Sustainable Energy Utility are implementing innovative programs. DelTech, local labor unions, and non-profit organizations, have launched innovative energy workforce training programs.
With so much activity, we must form new partnerships and work together towards strategic priorities that both make business sense and produce tangible environmental benefits.
A common commitment to maximizing energy efficiency, adopting cost-effective renewable energy, transitioning to cleaner transportation alternatives, and expanding recycling, for example, could produce immediate cost savings and local manufacturing opportunities, serving as models that can be replicated nationwide.
Many of the pieces are in place for Delaware to spur significant job creation and emerge as a leader in the global clean energy economy. Thank you to the University of Delaware for hosting the “Creating the Clean Energy Economy” conference, as well as the many other organizations involved. I’m looking forward to working closely with the community to take our efforts to the next level. By seizing the opportunities today, we will build a prosperous economy for years to come.
Click here to read Governor Markell’s recent post on combining innovation and manufacturing to drive Delaware’s clean energy industry.
Our state has a long history as a cradle of innovation. A place where ideas can become products, products become new companies and companies help shape new industries.
We are working to make sure that this history isn’t just remembered – we’ve been putting policies in place and working together with employers, academics, nonprofits and others to ensure that innovation is the foundation of our future.
One area with growth potential in both manufacturing and innovation remains clean technology. Around the world, people are getting to work creating and manufacturing products with both environmental and economic benefit. Delaware has key advantages that can help create real economic opportunity.
Read more here.
This week, we held the final 2010 Conversations About Stronger Schools meeting. It has been great to talk with so many parents, teachers, and other community leaders.
“How can we get more parents involved in education reform?”
To share your ideas and learn more about what we’re working on, please click here.
I wish you a peaceful, safe and happy holiday season.
As we approach 2011, we hope you’ll share your ideas for how we can move forward together!
Written on: December 16th, 2010 in Education
This week, we held final 2010 Conversations About Stronger Schools meeting with parents, teachers, and other community leaders. I was really impressed by how engaged many of the parents have been – bringing challenging and thought-provoking questions.
“How will education reform work without increased involvement from parents? How can we get more parents involved?”
Parental involvement is fundamental to student success. Kids are only in school for so many hours a day, and most students spend most of their time outside of a classroom. Parental involvement and community support are critical to making sure that kids are ready to learn when they arrive at school and that they learn the skills and values that will help them to succeed when they leave school.
That is why part of our reform agenda requires districts to develop and implement family and community engagement plans using a portion of the Race to the Top funding. At the state level, we are working with the districts to identify and share best practices in this area, but these plans will be locally developed and driven.
We need all the creative and common-sense ideas we can get. Please get in touch with your local PTA or visit Ideas.Delaware.gov to share your suggestions.
Another significant element of our education reform plan is the improved collection and use of data. Teachers, school leaders and parents need real feedback in real time to determine how our students are doing, so we are building systems to make that possible.
This will eventually include a new Parent Dashboard that will enable parents to go online at anytime and see critical measures and data regarding their children’s progress. The “Insight Portal” will pilot in Fall 2011, starting with dashboards for teachers, and the Parent Dashboards should become available in the 2011-2012 school year.
Please help us get the word out about education reform and share your ideas and questions at Ideas.Delaware.gov!
Written on: December 14th, 2010 in Job Creation
Originally published in The News Journal
The national economy has made for some very tough times, particularly for our state’s great manufacturing community.
But given their talent and drive, I know our manufacturers can still say with certainty to companies around the world — “If you can invent it, we can build it“– which is why I spend so much time working to broaden the number of businesses that think of Delaware as a place to build and get things built. Manufacturing jobs have historically given so many Delawareans real economic opportunity for their families. We need to make sure that opportunity is not just our history, but our future.
At the same time, our state has a long history as a cradle for innovation. A place where ideas can become products, products become new companies and companies help shape new industries.
When we have the chance to combine those efforts — when something can be conceived, created and manufactured all within our great state — the economic benefits multiply.
One area with growth potential in both manufacturing and innovation remains clean technology. Around the world, people are getting to work creating and manufacturing products with both environmental and economic benefit. Delaware has key advantages that can help create real economic opportunity for families in our state in this area.
First, we have one of the most skilled workforces in the nation with a density of engineering talent that rivals Silicon Valley and manufacturing know-how that can meet any challenge.
Second, we have one of the most advanced collections of clean tech research programs in the nation at the University of Delaware, important research at Delaware State University and a great training pipeline at Delaware Tech.
Third, we have well-established companies like DuPont and W.L. Gore, and dozens of other smaller firms, all moving rapidly into the renewable energy market with several hundred researchers, manufacturers, developers, and integrators already employed in Delaware.
Fourth, we have rapidly growing consumer demand within the state and tens of millions of potential customers within a few hours drive.
We have taken some important initial steps to support these new jobs. We put in place an executive order that helps our state to lead by example in energy efficiency, recycling, and renewable energy opportunities. We also gathered partners from across the state to conduct an energy auction that increased our use of renewable energy while saving taxpayers more than $13 million.
Our Clean Energy Jobs Act and Energy Conservation and Efficiency Acts produce cost savings, environmental benefits and economic opportunity. They will encourage energy efficiency improvements for thousands of homes and buildings and the installation of hundreds of megawatts of solar, offshore wind, and fuel cell projects. Equally important to the environmental benefits, these efforts should result in the creation of thousands of secure, quality jobs in development, manufacturing, deployment and operations.
The University of Delaware, The News Journal and the Delaware Public Policy Institute recently hosted another installment in a series on “Creating Knowledge Based Partnerships.” Called “Creating a Clean Energy Economy,” the two-day forum brought together industry, academics, entrepreneurs and community leaders from around the country to help turn this industry’s possibilities into greater economic reality.
The goal is to look for ways to move forward together growing new and existing businesses, creating well-paying jobs, improving our environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
To revitalize the American economy, we need to get people building things that can be proudly stamped “Made in America, Manufactured in Delaware,” and clean technology can be part of that solution.
Ribbon cutting ceremonies are usually held when a new building has been constructed – a school, a library, a hospital, etc. I have attended many of these and enjoy the excitement that comes along with a new facility with new possibilities.
Sometimes, though, ribbon cuttings can be held to mark the beginning of a new era for an existing building. And these can be just as exciting. We celebrated one such event on Delaware Day, December 7, when I joined Governor Markell, Secretary O’Mara, and many others in marking the grand opening of the new First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries.
The Welcome Center is located in the Delaware Public Archives, next to Legislative Hall in Dover. Though certainly not a new institution, the Archives building itself had a bit of a rebirth 10 years ago, when it was expanded beyond the original Hall of Records.
Now, part of the building is entering yet another new phase in its service to the people of Delaware. Since the Welcome Center moved from the first floor of the Biggs Museum to the Archives last year – partly as a cost-cutting measure, and partly to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its function – we have been making some changes which we think will increase the number of people who visit Dover and Kent County and will help them enjoy their experience here more.
Visitors to the Welcome Center will be able to pick up lots of information on what to see and do in the area and will enjoy a comfortable atmosphere in which to watch a video highlighting nearby sites of interest.
The Welcome Center serves as the home base for the First State Heritage Park — a “park without borders” — which exists as a partnership between the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in my department and the Delaware State Parks under the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. It also includes the City of Dover and private organizations.
As the Secretary of State, one of my responsibilities is to preserve, protect, and promote our historical and cultural treasures. This includes buildings such as the Old State House and the Old New Castle Court House.
It also includes official and personal documents, photos, and other objects that tell the history of Delaware and its people. The galleries in the new Welcome Center will hold rotating exhibits and displays showing off some of these fascinating objects.
Right now, visitors can see two displays at the Welcome Center and Galleries. One of these, entitled “USS Delaware: An American Battleship,” uses objects, photographs, and ceremonial silver to tell the story of the largest of eight American warships bearing the name “Delaware.”
The other, which just opened this week, is entitled “The Civil War: Five Delaware Soldiers’ Stories.” The display was planned to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, which will be observed in 2011.
Whether you are a Delawarean or a visitor to our state, I encourage you to visit the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, maybe take a tour, and discover some of what makes Delaware unique.