By Kristin Bender
Tribune Staff Writer
OAKLAND — The green corridor project has seven new partners who are working on doing for the East Bay what high tech did for Silicon Valley.
The idea of the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership, which was founded in December 2007, is to create green and clean jobs and to generate revenue.
The seven new partners are the mayors of Alameda, San Leandro, Albany and El Cerrito, plus the chancellors of Peralta Community College District and Contra Costa Community College District, and the president of Cal State East Bay. They join Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, the UC Berkeley chancellor and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory to nurture the green industry and tackle federal money to train residents to land green-collar jobs.
In addition to the seven new members, the partnership will hire its first director and collectively leverage more than $76 million in federal funding for weatherization, green job training, biofuels and carbon capture research, officials said.
The group met last week and heard from U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, one of the partnership founders, via video on Department of Energy programs and opportunities.
"The East Bay Green Corridor is a national model of green innovation, research, and economic development," Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said. "Working across city boundaries with our educational partners, we have created green tech businesses, leveraged our stimulus funding, and expanded local
green jobs for our residents."
The green industry has carved out a considerable name for itself in recent years. Bay Area companies in a category that includes green tech and energy and related industries landed $168 million in venture capital financing in the second quarter of this year, a 48 percent increase from the year before.
Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond each have taken steps to become greener. Berkeley banned polystyrene foam two decades ago. In 2006, its voters became the first in the country to pass a ballot measure directing the residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Oakland has banned polystyrene foam and traditional plastic bags. Emeryville passed its own ban earlier this year.
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said Oakland is dedicated to creating more green jobs. Oakland already has ties to creating green-collar jobs. Last week, 35 men and women graduated from a nine-month job-training program, marking the end of the inaugural class of the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, which attempts to lift people out of poverty, dead-end jobs or unemployment by giving them training to work in the fields of solar, green construction and energy efficiency.
The idea for a green corridor partnership was born over dinner several months ago when UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau invited the mayors to his house to talk about enhancing the region.
The green corridor has been identified as a top priority for driving regional economic vitality. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute, charged by the state to coordinate a regional response to the federal stimulus opportunities, designated the green corridor project as one of the most important strategic projects for business development in its Bay Area Economic Recovery Workplan in early June.
A breakdown of the $76 million in federal funding shows that $4 million will go to the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a partnership of six institutions led by Berkeley Lab and located in Emeryville, to purchase equipment for enhanced study of conversion of plant biomass to biofuels and the study of sorghum as a bioenergy feedstock crop.
In addition, $17.8 million will go to the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond for weatherization, energy efficiency and green job training.
Roughly $24.5 million goes to the lab over the next five years to study how to clean up underground contaminants.
Last, $30 million through the next five years will go to fund two Energy Frontier Research Centers at UC Berkeley and the lab to improve the ability to capture carbon dioxide and store it permanently underground.