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Recommendations to the Hudson Valley Regional Economic Development Council

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Recommendations to the Hudson Valley Regional Economic Development Council
Prepared for submission by Sustainable Hudson Valley, October 13, 2011

As the Regional Economic Development Council prepares its five-year strategic plan,   Sustainable Hudson Valley’s board offers seven recommendations for  low-carbon, innovative, equitable and durable development strategy that will grow economic opportunity while shrinking carbon footprint.

1. No credible strategy for sustainable development can ignore the base of resources that sustain it – energy, water, and food systems.  These forms of natural capital are the source of the region’s quality of life and attractiveness; they should be a cornerstone of the plan.  The Hudson Valley already has an agricultural economic development strategy and a cluster of entrepreneurs working to create a “food corridor.”   Energy efficiency represents over $300 billion in annual investment as well as the principal pathway for carbon reduction, and it draws on the expertise of major corporations in the region such as IBM and GE. Energy dollars saved by businesses are directly available for payroll, making energy-efficiency an important engine of job creation.  The sustainable management of water through technologies from smart irrigation to rain gardens has also become an innovation flashpoint for a number of regions, and should be for ours.  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office estimates that investment in water infrastructure statewide could create 26,000 jobs.  Advanced policies that incentivize energy and water efficiency – including an expanded Renewable Portfolio Standard and innovative tools like Community Choice Aggregation – should be seriously considered.

2. A full-spectrum green economy is the foundation of sustainable development.  Research by McKinsey and Company, on carbon-reducing technologies, identified hundreds of existing specialty technologies that are part of the picture.  In particular, recycling based industries are high-leverage carbon-reducers that cut the fossil fuel demand of waste hauling, reduce land-fill methane and preserve virgin materials.  Research by the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development in 2008 revealed that, of the many green building materials and products that satisfy LEED requirements if they are produced within 500 miles of their use, only about a dozen were produced in the Hudson Valley.  While embracing these clusters of opportunity, to capitalize fully on the promise of environmentally advanced development, we must also “think beyond the clusters” and set a high bar for environmental performance and innovation in every industry.  Arguably the strongest way to do this is to embrace “biomimicry” in design of all products, as NYSERDA is already doing with a consortium of energy storage producers.  This strategy allows for areas of specialization without restricting additional new ideas during the 5 years of the plan.

3. Sustainable development is local-first development, with a serious focus on providing for basic goods and services within or near the region to avoid the substantial energy costs of shipping.  This does not mean isolationism, but does set a priority on developing local assets.   Locally-owned businesses tend to support their local economies via investment, purchasing and charitable giving for a desirable economic multiplier effect.  While a disinvested region like the Hudson Valley understandably seeks to attract some of its enterprises from outside, support for local entrepreneurs should be strong.

4. A sustainable economy will only be possible when Hudson Valley companies, investors and consumers have confidence in the soundness of the underlying financial institutions.  A detailed proposal for redesign of the banking and finance system to restore transparent, decentralized, and soundly managed institutions was recently published by the New Economics Working Group.  We hope that the Regional Council will seriously review this document (see References).

5. A sustainable economy will measure prosperity in ways that are meaningful to citizens, workers and voters, as well as factoring in the protection of natural resources and the aggressive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  The Hudson Valley’s Regional Well-Being Index, an initiative of the Center for Regional Research, Education and Outreach, created a set of metrics with thoughtful stakeholder inputs. CRREO’s index could provide an intelligent guiding framework for measuring progress achieved by the plan.

6. As Wayne Fawbush, founder of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and a program officer at the Ford Foundation, observes, “Clusters are nurtured, not engineered.”  The strategic advantage of cluster-based economic development is the ability of businesses to collaborate and advance shared interests, reducing reliance on economic development professionals and stretching resources generally.    The Valley’s strategic economic development plan should be written in a spirit of adaptiveness, continuous learning and humility.   An innovation economy is fast-moving by its nature. One of the best ways to design this approach into the plan might be to select education itself as a cornerstone industry cluster, recognizing the enormous contribution of the over 50 institutions that are part of the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities.

7. When vibrant economies are compared to similar but less vibrant ones,  a subtle human dimension sets them apart.  “Social capital” takes the form of rich networks, high trust, relationships of mutual support and exchange,  and shared norms of doing business.  Successful corporations know how to nurture this.  The business and economics literature on social capital generally explains that it matters because it reduces transaction costs and speeds up the spread of innovations.   Our regional strategists should give this “soft” idea its due in setting a high bar for integrity and leadership in the funding of projects.  Putting people to work requires practical projects and financing; but to produce high value and retain top talent, vision and leadership are equally important.


American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and Alliance for Water Efficiency (2011), “Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: A Blueprint for Action.”

Benyus, Janine (2002) Biomimicry:  Innovation Inspired by Nature.  NY: HarperCollins.

Cassidy, Robert (ed.) (2006), “Green Buildings and the Bottom Line,” White Paper from Building Design+Construction Magazine.
Cuppett, Scott and Russell Urban-Meade (2010), “Hudson Valley Water: Challenges and Opportunities”.  New Paltz: Center for Regional Research, Education and Outreach Discussion Brief.

Forester, Deborah (2006), “Green Landscaping Audiences, Outreach and Training Needs,”  Report for the Estuary Training Program.

Gareffi, Gary, Kristin Dubay and Marcy Lowe (2008), “Manufacturing Climate Solutions” report, Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness at Duke University, December 2008.

Geiser, Kenneth (2001), Materials Matter: Toward a Sustainable Materials Policy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Institute for Local Self-Reliance (2008), “Stop Trashing the Climate,” Washington, ILSR.

Laitner, John A. “Skip” and Vanessa McKinney, “Positive Return: State Energy Efficiency Analysis Can Inform U.S. Energy Policy Assessments,” American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Report # E084, June 2008.

McKinsey Global Institute (2008), “The Carbon Productivity Challenge:  Curbing Climate Change and Sustaining Economic Growth.”

New Economy Working Group (2011), “How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule.” Downloaded at:

Perry, Don;  Shoshanna Abeles, Simon Gruber and Melissa Everett (2008). Green Building Materials and Products Directory for the Hudson Valley.  Liberty, NY: Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development.

Prusak, Laurence and Don Cohen (2001) In Good Company: How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

River Network (2009), “The Carbon Footprint of Water.”

Shuman, Michael H (2007).  Small Mart Revolution:  How Mom and Pop are Beating the   Global Competition.  San Francisco:  Barrett-Kohler.


Written by melissaeverett

October 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm

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