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Friday, April 24, 2009

Emerging renewable energy industries will help the Midwest compete

From an article by Jim Leute on GazetteXtra.xom (Janesville):

JANESVILLE — The wind blows and the sun shines across state lines.

And the Great Lakes lap the shores of eight states, not just Wisconsin.

Renewable energy can play a critical role in the economic resuscitation of the Midwest, but only if communities, counties and states are willing to shed the traditions of their parochial past.

"The place to begin is to think across borders in terms of infrastructure, taxation, planning and education," said Richard Longworth, author of "Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism."

Published in 2008, Longworth's book paints a grim picture of the Midwest's losing battle with foreign competition. The former chief foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune has become a popular speaker in Midwestern communities—large and small—that are withering away.

Thursday, Longworth was in Janesville as the keynote speaker for an "Opportunities in Renewable Energy Summit." Wednesday, he'll be back in town to speak at a Professional Development Day at Blackhawk Technical College.

Longworth said the Midwest rested much too comfortably on its roots in agriculture and heavy industry manufacturing. The Industrial Age, he said, was very good to the Midwest, but it's over, and the area is now a global backwater.

"The Midwest did two things really well, and globalization has tossed them both into the air," he said. "We're not coping with that very well …

"This sense of splendid isolation is one we can no longer afford."

Regional collaboration, particularly in attracting emerging renewable energy industries, will help the resource-rich Midwest compete in a global economy, said Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and distinguished visiting scholar at DePaul University.

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