How To Turn Your City Green

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A lot of municipalities are looking for new sources of growth, and in particular clean technology or green projects seem like an ideal way to go. With traditional manufacuturing jobs all but died off, retrofitting those old factories to produce new, sustainable, products seems like an economic ideal. Or at least it’s better than replacing them with condos.

That’s the idea behind Chicgo alderman Manny Flores’ attempt to convert a part of his city in to a green hub. He represents the 1st Ward in Chicago and is actively seeking to convert a few blocks of an industrial corrider into a clean tech centre. It started with the green exchange, which is a 272,000 square foot concrete loft building that will be home to a group of green retail and office spaces.

Down the street from the Green Ecxchange is a clump of of industrial buildings he plans on converting. His plan is to retrofit the buildings, get a special designation for the corridor, and then lure reasearch and development groups to set up shop in his ward. From there he hopes to create a vibrant economic scene. Will it work? We don’t know, but with the government handing out cash for green stimulus, nows a great chance to take a shot.

We originally learned about Manny via Twitter, when he asked his city to fill in a survey. He emailed us after seeing our post, and told us about the process of getting clean tech/green businesses and ideas flowing in the Windy City.

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How do you hope to attract new businesses like solar or wind companies?

First market the area, so it’s clear to member of the business community that the city places a priority on devloping a clean economy. Then create tax incentives, make it appealing to attract these companies.

The green exchange has generated positive discussion. Eventhough the building is still under construction, it’s create a virtual community, which made strong linkages and partnerships.

How many jobs does it create?

That’s still an open question. There’s some economic activity with retrofitting the Cooper Lamp building. Once it opens, we’re forecasting anywhere from 300 to 500 jobs. That’s a gain of 200 above the Cooper Lamp factory, which when it closed employed 100 to 120 people.

If you were advising another city for going green, what advice would you give?

There are code issues across the board that doesn’t make it conducive for any city, try to fix them. Take a look at the different ordinances in place, and see how they might affect economic development, and funding. Make sure these incentives and regulations arent disincentives. Also, look at companies developing cutting edge products not covered by municipal codes or state laws, water safety, buidling

What’s the biggest challenge?

It’s connecting opportunites. The economy has played a factor, development has slowed down across the board. Also, getting those who dont understand the benefits and how helpful it can be invest. It takes time to bring some people up to speed. But we just communicate and engage in a way they understand.

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