Published first on the Progress News, January 24, 2022
After last week’s article on upcoming solar-focused projects, I received some questions about other business opportunities that might arise around our region. If you are an entrepreneur, looking for a new line of work, or just curious about what’s happening in our area, this information might interest you as well. You may remember the Regional Growth Cluster I talked about several weeks ago, and how our coalition of regional partners is focusing on three key, interconnected primary industries – sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and materials reuse. So, if any of those industries interest you, keep reading! The goal of our coalition is resilient businesses and high-quality, family-sustaining jobs, so we are always looking for partnership potential with existing businesses or growth-minded entrepreneurs.
Agriculture is currently Pennsylvania’s top industry, with nearly 600,000 related jobs statewide. Although a powerhouse industry, it is facing an aging workforce as well as changing consumer demands. We are working with the findings of the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence to develop best practices in sustainable food production and distribution, bio-collaborative agricultural industries, and innovations in land management, with hundreds of new jobs expected over the next few years, and thousands more possible as our projects mature and scale.
Renewable energy is our second primary industry target. The solar industry alone is expected to continue to grow exponentially to meet the demand for renewable energy generation over the next decade, adding more than 500,000 jobs nationwide to meet 2030 climate goals, and Pennsylvania is primed for roughly 70% growth over the next several years. The wind energy sector is likewise expected to grow by 60%, providing high-quality jobs to those exiting fossil-fuel-related industries as well as newcomers to the job market.
We also see excellent growth potential in the creation of new technologies and processes for materials reuse and circular supply chain systems. Partnerships between our educational institutions and industry leaders are paving the way for innovations in solar, wind, and hydroelectric hardware, recycling processes and equipment, and facilities to produce an array of sustainable, bio-collaborative products utilizing recycled and agricultural materials such as hemp-fiber wood flooring and insulation. This opens the door for new businesses and jobs in research & development and circular supply chain components, and re-energizes our local and regional economies.
The growth of these interconnected, core regional industries will then both require and lead to an increase in demand for education and recreation-based services, growing those job markets as well. Between the need for additional education and training options for core industries and COVID-driven expectation of greater work-life balance, these support industries are expected to grow not just in number, but in quality and pay, creating a reinforcing loop of equitably distributed prosperity for the region.