Ohio: 'Best in Midwest' for advanced energy manufacturing

Ohio is leading the Midwest in becoming a key link in the supply chain for domestic clean technology manufacturing. Is the Rust Belt going green?

The Rust Belt is cleaning up.

Ohio leads the American Midwest in advanced energy manufacturing, according to a new study.

In fact, it's the No. 2 state in the union for "manufacturing potential" of wind turbines and components, with more than 7,500 people making the gears, bearings and blades needed for the products of cleantech firms -- and another 1,500 working on solar components.

That's according to Chicago, Ill.-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, an environmental advocacy center for -- you guessed it -- the Midwest. (That sound you hear? Chest-thumping.)

The group released last week a trio of studies on the clean energy supply chains in Illinois, Ohio and Iowa, and the gist of the one for the Buckeye State (.pdf) is that old-line manufacturing centers are reinventing themselves (and their factories) for 21st-century tech.

The authors write:

For example, Ohio’s established manufacturing base for glass and plastic films is now producing materials for solar photovoltaic panels, especially in the Toledo area where research institutions further support the solar supply chain. Good-paying jobs are being created and retained as wind power development and solar energy projects provide expanded markets for Ohio-manufactured equipment.

According to the survey, Ohio plays a part in the supply chains of 106 wind power businesses and 63 solar energy firms -- not to mention biomass, hydroelectric, geothermal and other alternative energies.

How did it get there, you ask? By an array of policies, grants and tax credits that favor energy investment, including the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, the Advanced Energy Fund, Ohio Energy Gateway Fund and, naturally, several federal programs.

Simply, "renewable energy is one of the fastest-growing business sectors for job creation" in the state, the authors write. The names of the new guard sound suspiciously like the those of the old: Avon Bearings, Lubrizol, Owens-Corning, Parker Hannifin, Sherwin-Williams and Timken.

In other words, if nationwide demand for green technology increases -- and it no doubt will, based on federal energy mandates and the general trajectory of things -- the Midwest might just head California off at the economic pass.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com