N.H.’s new advantage in clean energy technology

With the economy on the cusp of recession, political and business leaders are searching for ways to cushion its impact and hasten recovery. Although a stimulus plan has been passed and is about to be implemented, its impact will likely be limited.

Ultimately, the business community will have to initiate economic recovery. And an important part of the solution may already be right in front of us in the form of “green” industries.

Opportunities abound in a variety of sustainable products and services, from renewable building materials to recycling services. But perhaps the greatest opportunity can be found in clean energy. Clean energy is already one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, and it is expected to surpass the $7 trillion mark by 2030.

There are many factors driving the growth of the clean energy industry, not the least of which is the threat of global warming. No less important are the national security implications of relying on foreign oil, particularly oil from the Middle East. Given these factors, it would seem that investing in clean energy is a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, America has been slow to jump on the bandwagon. Though the United States has traditionally been the leader in promoting new technologies, when it comes to green industries we have willingly ceded our leadership position to other nations.

While we remain on the sidelines, Germany has taken the lead in developing solar technologies and Spain has become the leading developer of wind technologies. Even Brazil has a better track record than the United States, staking out a position as the foremost producer of biofuels.

Why has America fallen so badly behind? The problem lies, in large part, with the U.S. government. Until recently, the government’s official position was that there is no environmental crisis. As a result, we have fallen deeper into reliance on oil and coal while the rest of the world has been busy developing new industries revolving around clean energy. The economic impact of our misguided focus has been considerable, and we have a lot of ground to make up.

So it appears that the burden of creating a green infrastructure will fall primarily on private industry, at least for the time being. While the federal government is paying lip service to the need to create greener products and services, government leaders have shown little inclination to actually invest in new technologies.

Ironically, that may be good news for New Hampshire entrepreneurs who are interested in entering the race to develop clean energy technologies. Green industries rely heavily on technology development and, as was the case with the technology boom of the ‘90s, New Hampshire is uniquely positioned to stake out a leadership position.

Additionally, the personnel and other resources upon which success is dependent are often less costly in New Hampshire than in other states in the Northeast.

The advantages

New Hampshire enjoys a number of advantages in the quest for green supremacy, including:

• An established technology base — New Hampshire already boasts one of the healthiest technology sectors in the nation. That base can provide the resources that are necessary to quickly ramp up new green initiatives, which gives us a head start over much of the rest of the country.

• An educated workforce — Because of the traditional strength of our technology industries, New Hampshire companies already employ some of the world’s best and brightest technology leaders. These professionals are ready to step in to lead a new green industry revolution.

We also have access to the next generation of workers. New England has long been considered the education mecca of the United States and boasts some of the finest colleges in the world. New Hampshire is no slouch in that regard, and our universities — both private and public — are widely recognized as world-class institutions. As a result, the brain power that we will need in the future is already close at hand.

Finally, our proximity to the world’s finest universities, both in New Hampshire and in surrounding states, provides access to the research companies need to create breakthrough technologies. Every technology revolution — from the nuclear program of the ‘40s to the space program of the ‘60s to the technology revolution of the ‘90s — relies heavily on educational research centers. The close proximity of educational institutions provides a tremendous advantage as we strive to develop new green technologies.

• An efficient transportation infrastructure — It doesn’t matter how good your new technologies and products are if you can’t deliver them efficiently to the marketplace. New Hampshire enjoys an excellent combination of highways, seaports and airports, which permits us to deliver our new products to the rest of the world.

• Access to a great “belt of wealth” — New England boasts one of America’s dominant investment networks. There are numerous venture capital firms, institutional investors and angel investors in the technology space. They are always on the lookout for great new ideas and technologies to invest in, and they represent an accessible source of investment capital for New Hampshire companies in green industries.

• New Hampshire’s lifestyle advantage — Our quality of life is unparalleled, and we enjoy a rare combination of employment, recreation and entertainment opportunities. In fact, many of the region’s CEOs and other corporate leaders already live in New Hampshire and commute to out-of-state jobs. This makes New Hampshire attractive to the corporate leaders and employees we need to drive the development of green industries.

There are also many promising energy sources, including wind, solar, hydroelectric and methane. New Hampshire companies are well positioned to dominate the design and manufacture of the equipment and materials that are necessary to pursue these energy sources. And while it’s true that we are starting back in the pack, the combination of market advantages enjoyed by New Hampshire companies can help us catch up to the rest of the world very quickly. Furthermore, the fact that the United States is the largest potential market for these technologies provides an additional advantage to local entrepreneurs.

Numerous segments of the green economy provide potentially lucrative opportunities for New Hampshire entrepreneurs. Clean energy development, green technology manufacturing and renewable materials development are just few. Investing in green industries can provide the perfect recipe for success during these uncertain economic times.

Nicholas Rowe and Daniel Potter are senior partners at Focus Capital Wealth Management Inc., Bedford. For more information, visit focus-capital.com.