TRAVERSE CITY (AP) — Nearly 5 percent of all jobs in
Michigan are linked to environmental protection in some way,
according to a report that contends what’s good for nature
does not have to be bad for the economy.

Environmentally friendly products, programs and services create
employment not only for scientists and engineers, but also for
office and factory workers and even truck drivers, the report
says.

“Most of these jobs are in occupations and skills that
people wouldn’t necessarily think of as “green
jobs,’” said Roger Bezdek, the report’s author
and president of a Washington-based economic research firm.

The report shows that “investments in the environment are
good for the economy, good for business and good for jobs,”
he said.

Bezdek and David Hollister, director of the Michigan Department
of Labor and Economic Growth, are scheduled to release the report
today during a news conference at the state Capitol in Lansing.

Bezdek, an economist who has written extensively on the ties
between environmental protection and job creation, said the
“environmental industry” is a leading employer that
last year generated nearly 5 million jobs nationwide and pumped
$301 billion into the economy.

In Michigan, about 217,000 jobs are “environment
related,” he said — 4.9 percent of total employment.
Some came about through laws and regulations, while others arose
solely through private initiative.

The environmental industry produced $12.9 billion in 2003 sales
and made up 3.9 percent of the gross state product, the report
says. Twenty-nine percent of private-sector environmental jobs are
in manufacturing, it says.

The report urges Michigan policymakers to nurture
environmentally friendly companies and jobs. Among the
recommendations: stepped-up research, development and marketing of
more energy-efficient automobiles.

Rich Studley, a senior vice president of the Michigan Chamber of
Commerce, said the economy benefits when businesses take steps such
as purchasing cleaner equipment and hiring environmental compliance
staff.

“But if the point they’re trying to make is that
more environmental regulation is good for industry, I think that
would be a hard sell with the people we represent,” Studley
said.

Bezdek said the report doesn’t get into whether
regulations should be strengthened, but disputes the widespread
belief that environmental protection and economic growth
don’t mix.

“It’s not a tradeoff between the environment and
jobs,” he said.

Bezdek acknowledged his study used “fairly broad”
criteria for determining what qualifies as an environmentally
linked job. He defines such jobs as “created either directly
or indirectly by environmental spending investments or
programs.”

Installing solar thermal collectors on houses and office
buildings would be an example of a “directly” linked
job, the report says, while an “indirect” job might be
working for a restaurant that draws most of its customers from a
solar panel factory across the street.

Many construction workers, financial analysts, janitors, office
clerks, packagers and others owe their livelihoods to environmental
protection, Bezdek said.

Among the companies listed as providing environmental jobs is
Tetra Tech, MPS, an engineering consulting firm based in Ann Arbor
with a staff of about 250. It is part of a larger company that
provides about 8,000 environmentally linked jobs, President Don
Lund said.

The Michigan affiliate primarily helps local governments improve
infrastructure such as sewer systems.

“I’ve been at this 33 years,” Lund said.
“When I started, our competitors in the environmental field
in Michigan you probably could count on one hand. Now there’s
dozens.”

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