Sacramento Business Journal – by Andy Keller Contributing writer

March 12, 2010

It is no secret that the recession is posing challenges for northern California businesses. Unemployment is at near-record highs in Sacramento, Butte, Yuba, and Sutter counties, and many employers are closing their doors.

Yet our Northern California-based business is growing. Why? Largely because we manufacture products that cater to Americans who believe in a clean energy future, and because we have become energy efficient ourselves. Our commitment to the environment is what motivates us to come to work every day. It drives us to provide a trusted brand and a portfolio of quality products aimed at helping humanity solve the environmental challenges ahead.

Our business is not alone in embracing this philosophy. Between 1995 and 2008, California’s “green” businesses increased 45 percent in number and 36 percent in employment, according to NextTen, a nonpartisan think tank. The Silicon Valley-based Collaborative Economics group says California now has more than 3,000 clean tech businesses that account for 44,000 jobs.

California’s emerging clean-energy economy has attracted nearly $6.5 billion in capital investment in the last three years, says the National Venture Capital Association. In 2008 alone, California-based companies received almost 60 percent of all clean-tech investments in the United States, with a record $3.3 billion in 111 separate ventures. Five of the nation’s top 10 cities for clean tech investment are in the Golden State, according to a recent New York Times article.

This is just the beginning. AB 32, the state’s pioneering road map to a clean energy economy, will generate another 112,000 jobs by 2020, according to a UC Berkeley study. The California Air Resources Board, the agency responsible for implementing AB 32, foresees increased economic production of $33 billion as a result of the law, as well as increased overall gross state product of $7 billion and increased personal income of $16 billion.

Unfortunately, however, Assemblymember Dan Logue (R – Linda) wants to put these jobs and economic investments at risk. He is proposing an initiative for the November ballot funded by Texas oil companies that would effectively kill AB 32, and along with it, the fastest-growing segment of California’s economy.

The debate over this initiative could well determine our state’s economic future: Will the next steps toward California’s new clean-energy economy be reversed in mid-course, jeopardizing tens of thousands of jobs and billions in investment? Or, instead, will the implementation of AB 32 lead to further innovation and leadership?

While others complain about constraints imposed by AB 32, which mandates that California reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, we instead see an incubator of innovation. Businesses will become more efficient because of it, and that will make them more competitive.

As an example, our company has slashed its costs by reducing our solid waste and energy use. While the average American contributes over 130 pounds of waste to a landfill per month, the entire ChicoBag office contributes less than 30 (each employee’s impact on the landfill is less than one pound per month). Our compost is picked up by GRUB, our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and used to support their program of providing our community with fresh, local produce.

That’s just one example of how “going green” makes good business sense. It’s why AB 32 is exactly right for these challenging times, driving investment in an otherwise tough venture capital market into clean energy R&D and environmentally-friendly products and services.

We all want to see Californians fully employed, our markets in housing and services recovered. This is not a time for a fear-based retreat to the status quo that will cost our state its competitive edge in the new economy.

Andy Keller is chief executive officer of ChicoBag in Chico.

© California Business Alliance for a Clean Economy

Web site design and website development by Christopher Green Design