Environmental jobs on the upswing

Oct. 9, 2004 at 5:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Two studies released last week report that environmental jobs -- a new but growing category of work -- could help create thousands of jobs that have been lost in the Rust Belt states.

According to economic research firm Management Information Service, Inc. (MISI), the overlooked jobs benefits of environmental protection could "play a significant role in offsetting thousands of lost jobs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, as well as nationwide." These findings were in a group of comprehensive national and state-specific studies of the environmental industry, "Jobs Creation in the Environmental Industry in the U.S."

The research in four core manufacturing states showed that investments in environmental protection activities are likely to provide "a greater than proportionate assist" to the manufacturing sector in these states, and that this benefit has been largely overlooked. Thursday's release of data from Minnesota and Wisconsin follows the release of similar research in Michigan and Ohio by MISI last week. The studies include profiles of key environmental companies in all four states.

MISI said that the combined studies counter the assumption that environmental protection inhibits employment and economic growth. For last year, MISI found "that the combined environmental industry in Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin produced nearly half a million jobs in these four states, and nearly five million jobs nationwide." The studies are a project of the Jobs and Environment Initiative.

"These studies quantify the broad jobs creation benefits of strong environmental policies," said Roger Bezdek, president of MISI. "The reports find that these manufacturing heavy states could reap additional jobs creation benefits from further environmental investments. These states should also better link environmental and economic development policies, including new skills training and anti-poverty efforts."

According to MISI, nationwide sales from the environmental industry topped $300 billion in 2003, with 4.97 million environmental jobs. Sales in 2003 from the environmental industry in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan range from $5 billion to $12.9 billion. There were 92,000 to 217,000 environmental-related employees in these states.

"Green policies yield black ink," said David Thompson, president and chief executive officer of the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based American Energy Exchange, Inc., a large manufacturer of heat recovery equipment in the U.S. "The environmental industry could brighten the future of domestic manufacturing. Our focus on the design, patenting and production of energy efficient products like air conditioners has keyed our growth in hiring and profits."

The two MISI studies reported that the environmental industry has been relatively recession proof, with the studies saying that during recent periods of weak overall economic job growth, the environmental industry continued to grow at 1 to 2 percent annually in these four states. In addition, MISI forecasts that the environmental industry will continue to grow, with yearly expenditures increasing to $357 billion in 2010.

"Contrary to popular myth, jobs are created, not lost, by environmental protection," noted Paula DiPerna, a public policy analyst and founder of the Jobs and the Environment Initiative. "And this study shows that more investment in areas such as water quality and energy efficiency could help offset some jobs loss, and create new jobs of all kinds for people from all walks life."

According to the study, "environmental jobs are also less vulnerable to outsourcing at this time because both direct and indirect environmental jobs involve work that is related to local environmental conditions, such as clean water, air quality, local environmental clean-up, testing, monitoring, equipment installation, retrofitting and re-design."

MISI said that jobs analyzed by the reports are both directly and indirectly created by the environmental industry. The study explained that environmental industries and jobs are defined as those that "as a result of environmental pressures and concerns, have produced the development of numerous products, processes and services, which specifically target the reduction of environmental impact."

According to the studies, "the vast majority of the jobs created by environmental protection are standard jobs for accountants, engineers, computer analysts, plumbers, factory workers, truck drivers, mechanics, etc.," MISI said in a statement.

"We should favor more, not less, environmental investment since strong pro-environment policies could be a major source of new manufacturing jobs in the U.S. as we enter the new century and more global competition, not to mention the benefits for the natural environment," DiPerna said.

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