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Detroit Is Getting That WARM (Training) Feeling - Green Jobs on the Menu


"When we can sit down with the industries in Detroit and with the industries in Louisiana and come up with more innovative ways to meet the needs of America's appetite for energy in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way, then we'll be on our way to finding real solutions." - Jerome Ringo, President, Apollo Alliance

On September 20, I attended WARM Training Center's Annual Breakfast at the Masonic Temple.  For those not familiar with WARM, it is a non-profit in Detroit that has, since 1961, provided a variety of services to residents, businesses and local governments, including energy education, technical assistance related to energy efficiency and green building, green jobs training, and education on sustainability and green building and technology.  One of its most important services is to provide training to workers for green technologies.


The Keynote Speaker for the event was Jerome Ringo, who is exteremly active in environmental and green technology circles and a dynamic speaker.  The focus of Mr. Ringo's talk focused on the promise of green jobs and how organizations like WARM are providing the base upon which the new economic base of world economy will be built, green technology.  Mr. Ringo bluntly told those in attendance that the United States is in a race, much like the race to the Moon of the 1960s, in which the world economies, in general, and China, specifically, are maneuvering to provide the components and products that will supply energy in the future.  Despite the fact that these technologies were invented and initially developed in the United States, our economic competitors have taken them up and there is a real threat that we could be as addicted to foreign components are we were on foreign sources of oil.


My summation of Mr. Ringo's comments do not do justice to the energy and forcefullness of his presentation.  However, I hope to be able to describe the urgency of the need to develop and use these technologies here in the United States.  If we abdicate our technology to others, not only will we lose jobs at home, but likely will be buying products, parts and services from overseas economic competitors.  If the term "American exceptionalism" is to have any meaning, this is one of the battlegrounds where that maxim will be put to the test.

Mr. Ringo concluded that he sees cities like Detroit leading the way, with the help of WARM and other organizations.  Almost as if to emphasize the point, the Warm Annual Breakfast served as the venue to honor several local "Energy Champions" that are leading the way in Detroit:


Emile Lauzzana
: He is the Energy Manager for Detroit Public Schools, Kent Intermediate School District, and other school districts.  Instituting energy efficiency projects, he has saved public schools $400,000 annually, with an anticipated savings of $1 million in 2013.


Bridging Communities, Inc.
: Bridging Communities describes itself as "a grassroots collaborative involving local unions, businesses, residents, social service and faith-based organizations working together to create caring communities where people of all ages can live in dignity in Southwest Detroit."  Bridging Communities also takes foreclosed and abandoned properties and rehilitates them into homes.


Green Garage
: This is a green business incubator that is housed in a rehabilited Model-T showroom on Second Avenue in Detroit.  There are approximately 30 buisnesses in residence, an urban sustainability library, and hosts a variety of weekly meetings where people can share ideas about sustainable development for business.


Detroit Diesel
:  This company manufactures large heavy duty diesel and alternative fuel engines.  Faced with an aging plant in 2005, it chose to stay in its Redford Township facility, spending $350 million to retool and refurbish and begin its sustainability efforts.  It is the recipient of the Environmental Protection Agency's Phoenix Award, which recognizes excellence in brownfield redevelopment.  Most recently, Detroit Diesel scored the highest in J.D. Powers & Associates customer satisfaction in its 2012 United States Heavy-Duty Truck Engine and Transmission Study.


The author, Saulius Mikalonis, is an environmental attorney with over 25 years of experience in the Bloomfield Hills offices of Plunkett Cooney.  He is also the author of The Green Blawg, in which he writes about environmental law issues for the non-lawyer.  In addition to practicing law, Mr. Mikalonis is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, at which he teaches a course entitled "Sustainable Development Law & Policy" and a former Board Member of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
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