Tuesday, December 04, 2007

East Bay Mayors, UC Chancellor Unite For 'Green Wave'

East Bay Mayors, UC Chancellor Unite For 'Green Wave'
Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

East Bay leaders, hoping to capitalize on the energy research emerging from UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley lab, vowed Monday to create a regional environmental hub that would mirror the success of Silicon Valley.

The mayors of Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and Emeryville, along with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory director Steven Chu, announced an agreement to promote the East Bay as the nucleus of a "green wave" of research and manufacturing.

"The Silicon Valley of the green economy is going to be here in the East Bay," Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said at Monday's event, held at a solar power equipment factory in Richmond. "We're putting our cities' chauvinism aside and working together. We're stronger when we unite."

The East Bay is already home to many environmental firms and factories, many of which began as spin-offs from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Lab. But as the companies grow, they've tended to relocate to the South Bay, where lab space, technological support and high-tech employees are more plentiful, or to places with more vacant land.

The East Bay Green Corridor Partnership would create a variety of incentives for green businesses to stay put. Among the proposals: a job-training program for the less-skilled members of the workforce, such as a certification program at local community colleges in solar installation or biotechnology lab work.

Green business executives in the East Bay said they are thrilled with the move.

"For us, we see great opportunities in the East Bay because it's so close to the university and lab," said Ilan Gur, corporate development director of Seeo, a Berkeley startup that is studying ways to increase energy storage. "A lot of people don't want to commute to the South Bay, but the South Bay has a very well-established infrastructure to help young businesses," he said. "We'd like to create something similar here."

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the plan would be a boon to their cities because it could provide training and entry-level jobs, possibly reducing crime in the process. Oakland and Richmond also have ample space and industrial zones for companies that want to expand.

"This is a magnificent opportunity for us to simultaneously address the issues of pollution and poverty," Dellums said. "This kind of economic development can help a generation of people who've been left behind."

to read the rest of the article check out the San Francisco Chronicle

E-mail Carolyn Jones at carolynjones@sfchronicle.com.

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