In the race to attract clean tech investment dollars, the host city of the 2010 Winter Olympics is trying to break away from the pack.
Vancouver is the largest urban centre in British Columbia, Canada and the new mayor Gregor Robertson has declared that the city will be the greenest in the world by 2020. A big part of that drive has been attracting clean tech leaders to set up shop and the 2010 games have been a networking bonanza for city representatives.
Billionaire Richard Branson co-hosted an event with Robertson during the first week of the games called the “Carbon War Room's Operation Green Capital” where 10 cities from around the world will compete to take part in a pilot project to help them access green capital. Vancouver is applying to be included in that fortunate number and seems to have a big head start.
According to Branson, Vancouver is “"an obvious choice” to host the kickoff for his global project, which is an effort to "take carbon out of our cities and to get money in.”
EnergyBoom talked to Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston about why Vancouver was emerging as a clean tech leader.
“People in business describe Vancouver as a ‘clean tech ecosystem,’" Johnson said. "They like that we have the right mix of qualified employees, financing and progressive leadership.”
Johnston himself is a green leader that was attracted to Vancouver by progressive policies and a chance to work at the cutting edge of clean tech. He was formerly the chief environmental officer for the Chicago Mayor’s office, the first such position in the United States. In this role he spearheaded the ‘”greening of Chicago” program.
When he was hired by Vancouver last fall, it was somewhat of a coup for Robertson and his newly elected council to land the “wiz kid” who had been named one of the Crain’s Chicago Business 40 under 40. Johnson seemed happy with the move as well: “I’m thrilled to be coming to live and work in this inspiring city and to be part of a team engaged in making Vancouver healthier, greener and more environmentally friendly.”
Johnston and the local economic development commission are taking full advantage of the massive networking opportunity offered by the 2010 games. Six separate tours of potential clean tech investors from around the world are being to squired around from meetings to hockey games. There are already three major deals annouced so far.
Like California, British Columbia seems to be benefiting from progressive legislation to reduce carbon emissions. It is the first jurisdiction in North America to have brought in a carbon tax.
BC already claims the third largest clean technology cluster in the world with more than $15 billion of clean power projects in the works. A new marketing campaign launched this week aims to attract a further $100 billion in clean tech investment to the province.
Will Vancouver win the clean tech race? Being pulled along by the star power of Richard Branson and the brain-power of bright lights like Johnson and Robertson is an impressive start. When the Olympic party is over, the city is hoping some of their new clean tech investment friends will stick around.
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