If there are two things Kansas has plenty of, it’s sun and wind– things that used to make life hard for farmers, but that are now powering a new and growing green job market in the Sunflower state. According to the Kansas Green Jobs Report, just released by the state Department of Labor, more than 20,000 Kansans are already employed in the Green job market with that number projected to grow to more than 30,000 by 2012
That is good news for Kansas where folks have traditionally made a living from wheat, cattle, or a small family farm with the occasional oil well thrown in for good measure. The whistling of the strong prairie wind blowing across the plains at 40 or 50 miles per hour drove early settlers crazy– sometimes quite literally. They hated it the way they hated prairie fires and locusts. Today that same wind represents the sound of money in the bank and jobs for a generation that has been forsaken by traditional industry and small scale farming.
The Greening of Greensburg
By now we all know about Greensburg, Kansas, the town of 2000 in Western Kansas that was literally wiped off the map by a tornado in 2007 and now, three years later, is well on the way to rebuilding itself as a totally green community with houses, businesses and public buildings all meeting the world’s toughest environmental standards. Greensburg is the first American community to pass a resolution requiring all city-owned buildings to earn LEED Platinum accreditation.
More than 150 homes and 20 commercial and public buildings have now been completed and Greensburg is well on its way to becoming a destination for green travelers from around the world. It is also the first town to have 100 percent Light Emitting Diode, or LED, street lighting, which reduces energy and maintenance costs by more than 70 percent and reduces nighttime light pollution by directing light rays downward. There are many more famous firsts in Greensburg, but perhaps the most important is the enthusiasm that it has generated worldwide and the focus it has brought to Kansas as a potential venue for green manufacturing.
Germany’s Siemens, a leader in alternative energy worldwide, is building a wind turbine assembly plant in Hutchinson, Kansas which will provide 400 green collar jobs, while Denmark’s Jupiter Group is set to open a 41,000 sq. ft. facility in Junction City. These are only two of the international players competing to take advantage of Kansas with its skilled work force and ideal location in the center of the continent smack in the center of the North American wind corridor.
Back in the day, settlers came to Kansas in covered wagons, built soddies , powered their well pumps with windmills, and broke the prairie with their plows. This was the land of John Brown and Carrie Nation, where the cattle trail ended and the buffalo roamed. It’s full of people who don’t let a little thing like a tornado get them down and who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work at those great green jobs to bring us all into a new world of clean renewable energy through wind and solar power.