All It Takes Is a Little Push?

I had a friend in college that was an economics major. Or barely one…he got by on a C average. When I asked him why he didn’t switch his major to something that he was better at, he told me, “Doing something I’m good at is boring. The challenge to try and master something hard is what motivates me.” On the surface, that’s exactly what it sounds like when I tell you that I want our region to become a center for the manufacture of energy efficiency products. Our market analysis of the region’s energy efficiency industry cluster clearly shows that what we’re good at is software and services. But I wonder if getting good at the manufacturing thing just takes a little push in right direction.

We know that our region and our state has some great manufacturing expertise and capacity. Almost 10% of our workforce is employed in manufacturing. But currently, a lot of it is in areas like aerospace, transportation and marine, not energy efficiency. How hard might that transition be?

It’s clear that a lot of our state’s manufacturers are looking at emerging opportunities to apply their skills, particularly in clean tech. We already know that aerospace manufacturers are getting into the wind turbine business with the help of CAMPS, and now it looks like boat builders are too. Plus, there’s the aerospace engineers (former Boeing) at Ramgen that are using compression engines for carbon sequestration.

So how big is the gap between existing manufacturing and the capability to make energy efficiency goods like smart meters or sensors or even intelligent HVAC systems? It’s certainly worth it if they can. For example, the global market for smart meters is projected to be $19.5 billion between 2010 and 2015. Is it a question of technical assistance, or capital investment, or marketing/business development? A combination of all of them? I don’t know. But I’d like to find out!

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