Catching the Next Big Technology Wave

About four years ago, Arizona commissioned a study which revealed that investing in green technology and sustainable manufacturing innovation represents perhaps the most significant growth opportunity for the state's 21st century economy.

Like any sound business plan, one section of the report, titled Positioning Arizona for the Next Big Technology Wave, also analyzed the competition, and detailed which US states are pursuing sustainable business initiatives. Not one Great Lakes state or province made the list.

So it was not surprising to find an article in yesterday's Toronto Star lamenting the fact that Toronto seems to be missing the idea that the global economy has begun to undergo a major transformation away from industries and businesses that make money by polluting the environment and toward those who profit by restoring and protecting it.

"We're about three years behind," Nicholas Parker, a Toronto native and co-founder and chairman of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Cleantech Venture Network, told the Star.

"In our view, over the next five-year period, at least 1.4 million high-quality direct jobs will result from venture investment that's going into [clean tech], globally. Who's going to get those jobs? Shanghai? Stockholm? Silicon Valley? Or Toronto? The race is on to create those jurisdictions that are going to capture these jobs."

Renewable energy - one key component of a much broader sustainability-clean technology agenda - is now a common part of the regional dialogue about transforming the Rust Belt to the Blue Belt. But the region's political leadership as a whole has yet to embrace the philosophy of sustainable business. Much less put out a compelling vision for how the Great Lakes economy looks and functions in 2100, 2050, or even 2020.

Meanwhile, as the three-year old Arizona report and the Star article indicate, the competition, and the investors, are lining up elsewhere: Austin, TX, San Jose, Ca, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, European Union........