Green Collar Jobs Growing in Maine

Jane West

Photo credit: DOT

The nation’s debt crisis has been captivating lawmakers in recent weeks, and they are grasping at anything that will help their respective positions, including last month’s bleak jobs report that reflected a creeping rise in unemployment to 9.2%.  Yet against that sobering backdrop is a positive trend that reflects where employers are steadily heading: the green economy.  The green jobs sector is faring better than most nationwide, and Maine in particular is ahead of the growth curve, according to a new report released today by the Brookings Institution.

Governor LePage has been outright dismissive of “green” or “clean” jobs, claiming in May that “The majority of these ‘green jobs’ are temporary.” But the data collected by the Brookings Institution spanned over seven years.  Between 2003 and 2010, Maine added 2,914 clean jobs for a total of 12,212 clean economy jobs in the state, a rate that reflects a 4% annual growth rate in this sector compared to the 3.4% national average.  The average annual wage of a green job in Maine was $36,460, and sample clean economy employers included Ocean Renewable Power Co., LLC, Tom’s of Maine, Inc., Cianbro Corp., Woodard & Curran, Inc., and Hancock Lumber Co., Inc.

Some of the largest segments in the state include jobs related to conservation, waste management and treatment, public mass transit, sustainable forestry products and energy-saving building materials.  The green economy is an important element of the state’s future financial well-being, and the economic activity includes a broad swath of products from wind turbines and solar photovoltiacs to services such as mass transit and regulation.

The trend here in Maine reflects what is happening on a national scale: while almost every other job sector is ratcheting back and waiting for some break in the recession, positions tied to sustainability and renewable energy are taking off.  Nationally, the clean economy employs 2.7 million people, double the 1.2 employed by the fossil fuel industry according to the Pew Center.

Entirely new positions, such as “Chief Sustainability Officers” are being created to ensure that companies are not only environmentally responsible but take advantage of cost-saving mechanisms through energy efficiency.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of job postings containing the keyword “sustainability” more than quadrupled in May of this year.  The number containing “wind” and “solar” more than doubled in the same time period.

For a country that consumes 19 million barrels of oil per day, it is refreshing to see a trend that reflects a critical acknowledgement: business as usual leaves us vulnerable.  A paradigm shift in hiring priorities and business practice gives us hope for economic and environmental sustainability.  And a big “attaboy” to Maine for fiercely trudging along and outpacing the national growth trends.

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