Industry Featured Articles
Tuesday, July 24 2018
By Kate McEnroe, President of Kate McEnroe Consulting
We are living in a time when frustrated employers facing shortages of qualified job applicants co-exist with both young and experienced workers experiencing persistent challenges in finding opportunities to create a sustainable career. In response, an impressive amount of work is being done across the country to boost the short and long-term workforce pipeline at all levels.
A lot of progress has been made connecting educational institutions and workforce agencies to existing and new businesses so that training program are well aligned to job opportunities. The job is never really done, and funding is always a challenge, but in many cases the questions of what needs to be done has been answered, at least in theory.
Tuesday, July 24 2018
By Angelos Angelou, Founder & CEO, AngelouEconomics, AngelouEconomics.com
How eCommerce is Changing the Face of Warehouse Operations
If you’ve ever spent more than ten consecutive minutes on social media, chances are you’ve stumbled across that most venerable of internet tropes, the “Only ‘90s Kids Will Remember” or “Kids Today Will Never Understand.” Half nostalgia, half curmudgeonly griping, these memes are a throwback to an era where the internet was dial-up, Blockbuster was a thing, and MTV actually played music videos. There’s usually an implicit message of smug intergenerational superiority running just beneath the surface.
However, a very real truth underlies this strain of internet humor. The past several decades have brought with them a dizzying amount of social and economic change, the effects of which have yet to be fully realized. Among the greatest of these upheavals has been the dramatic reshaping of one of societies’ core functions: how we buy things.
Tuesday, July 24 2018
By Dan Whitten, Vice President of Communications, Solar Energy Industries Association
Prominent announcements from companies such as Apple, Walmart and Target of installing solar on their facilities has made the rest of the commercial and industrial sector take notice. And the message is that, in many places, solar is now a cheaper way to power buildings than the alternatives. That’s why we are seeing broad investment from companies large and small.
Solar has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade. Initially a solution for select homeowners, and later a low-cost option for utility-scale projects, solar energy is now coming to a commercial facility near you. And if you look closely enough at the opportunities, it may very well be a solution for your own company.
The solar industry has seen an uptick in corporate adoption since 2015. According to SEIA’s 2017 Solar Means Business report, which tracks commercial solar installations, top corporate solar users installed 325 MW last year, up 43 percent from 2015. These additions bring the U.S. to 2,562 MW of installed commercial solar projects, which span across 40 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
Solar energy is a cost-effective way for businesses to generate electricity they need for manufacturing, distribution, storage, retail and many other applications. Whether on a facility roof, ground-mounted or off-site through an independent power producer, corporate demand for solar is soaring as thousands of America’s top brands and small ‘mom and pop’ shops are making the switch and seeing the savings. This didn’t happen overnight.
Just a decade ago, solar was nothing more than a minor ripple in America’s energy landscape. The rooftop market was small and niche, utility-scale installations were limited and electricity generation was counted in megawatts (MW) rather than gigawatts (GW). In 2008, Congress extended a 30 percent solar investment tax credit (ITC) for eight years and permitted utilities and companies paying the alternative minimum tax to qualify for it, along with residential and commercial customers.
This move set the solar industry in motion for good. From just 2 GW installed in 2009 to more than 53 GW through 2017, solar energy has become a mainstay and growing player in the U.S. energy market, with enough installed capacity to power more than 10 million households.
While strong federal policy has helped the industry nationally, it is important to have state- and municipal-level policies. These policies bring solar to communities like yours and mine, reducing costs, creating jobs and boosting economic activity and making solar more accessible to homes and businesses.
State incentive programs and rapidly-declining prices are driving development in the commercial and industrial (C&I) market, demonstrating again how important policy is to the growth and development of solar.
The top ten states for solar predominantly employ some combination of three different policies. Net Metering, which supports rooftop and distributed solar; Renewable Portfolio Standards, which primarily support utility-scale solar; and effective Interconnection Standards, which allow projects both large and small to seamlessly connect to the grid.
It is no coincidence that states that adopt these policies are home to more jobs and solar energy production. States such as California, North Carolina, Nevada and Massachusetts have, for the most part, implemented policies that are friendly to the development of solar, and it shows in their production.
For years, the industry’s top states remained largely unchanged, but recently the U.S. solar market has diversified. In 2017, 28 percent of installations were completed outside of the top ten state markets – this tops the record of 20 percent market share that these states achieved in 2016. States on both sides of the political spectrum are opening their eyes to the vast economic benefits of solar, which has become an apolitical energy source and job-creator.
Over time, the U.S. solar market has faced many challenges; one being a lag in corporate adoption of solar in recent years. Corporate interest in solar energy is booming, yet adoption lagged compared to the residential and utility segments. In 2015, the industry began greater outreach efforts with the broader real estate community to understand their needs, educate them about solar and develop resources.
For example, SEIA’s annual Solar Goes Corporate events bring together commercial end-users, such as real estate owners, along with solar industry professionals to discuss opportunities, challenges and solutions to going solar. This event began in 2016 with the hope of building relationships and turning corporate interest in solar into adoption of solar.
One challenge brought up by both tenants and real estate owners is the split incentives issue – the party paying for a solar system is not the party paying for electricity. SEIA published a white paper that explains how Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a financial tool where payments are made through tax assessments, can solve the split incentives issue.
To reduce transaction costs, SEIA’s Commercial & Industrial (C&I) Committee recently developed a model Power Purchase Agreement for C&I systems. We also published the Solar Energy and Commercial Real Estate: Insights for your Investment Property. Using this document, commercial property owners can increase revenue, lower operating expenses, negotiate lease extensions and increase the net present value, or NPV, of their buildings. The C&I Committee is also working on addendums for PACE financing and energy storage.
While SEIA’s Solar Means Business report does not explicitly track it, off-site procurement has been a major driver of corporate solar procurement in recent years. GTM Research counts 31 operating off-site corporate projects, plus 21 in development.
These projects allow companies to tap into economies of scale by siting projects in areas where larger system sizes are possible. Major tech companies like Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft have all recently announced contracts for off-site purchases, indicating that this trend is expected to continue growing as both solar developers and corporates become more familiar with the transaction.
The non-residential solar market in 2017, which includes C&I installations, grew by 28 percent from 2016, notching its fourth straight year of annual growth. Looking ahead, the C&I market is going to be facing some challenges. Commercial installations are expected to decline in 2018 as incentive changes in major states like Massachusetts and California take effect. Commercial adoption may also be slowed in the next few years due to impacts from new tariffs on imported solar modules.
This does not mean that the C&I market is without significant opportunities. Commitments from businesses to use 100 percent renewable energy, increased use of electric vehicles and the rapidly-declining cost of energy storage and solar systems themselves are all expected to drive corporate interest in solar going forward. Past 2020, commercial solar capacity is expected to see higher growth rates as tariff declines lead to lower prices and the opening of new state markets.
SEIA will continue to work out any obstacles to the investment by individual businesses, while building relationships and educating businesses on the benefits of solar. Even with challenges, solar is an attractive and prime opportunity for American companies and real estate brokers to see a positive impact on their bottom line.
Solar energy in much of the country is simply cheaper than electricity from other sources, and our goal is to make the decision to go solar an easy and profitable one for companies of all sizes looking to benefit from this clean, American energy revolution.
Bio: Dan Whitten is the vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the U.S. solar industry. Before SEIA, Dan spent more than 15 years as an energy and environmental journalist, including as a Bloomberg News energy reporter in Washington, where he covered legislative, regulatory and financial aspects of U.S. climate and energy policy debates.
Monday, July 23 2018
By Dennis J. Donovan, Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting
This article focuses on one large and rapidly-growing segment of high-tech. That is information technology. The sector consists of systems and operation software (including web and mobile), infrastructure support (e.g., network enablement), and customer support (e.g., help desk).
Before proceeding it should be noted that most industries that traditionally considered high-tech have been locationally active. Such industries include biopharma, medical devices, scientific instruments, micro-electronics, robotics, 3-D manufacturing, aerospace, autonomous vehicles, optics, photonics, telecommunications, and mobile devices. Location activity has been strong across key functions including R&D, manufacturing, and distribution.
These industries (list is not all-inclusive) have a significant dependence on science and technology innovation, which leads to new or improved products/services. In addition, high-tech industries have an above-average concentration of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workers.
Monday, July 23 2018
By Michael D. White, author and freelance writer
No pun intended, the story of America’s timber and logging industry goes deep with roots that weave all the way back to the early 17th Century when the settlers of the early colonies in present-day New England and Virginia built their beleaguered settlements from timber harvested from the vast forest that loomed around them.
Over the past four centuries, amidst economic ups and downs, depressions and recessions, the labor-intensive work of felling trees and fashioning them into the lumber and wood products used across the nation and around the world has grown into a multi-faceted business generating billions of dollars annually from much of the country’s 751 million acres of public- and privately-owned forests.
Currently, paper and wood products exports account for about 15 percent of the industry’s annual total sales. In 2017, the industry’s global exports totaled $30.9 billion, of which $21.4 billion were exports of pulp, paper and packaging materials, while some $9.5 billion were exports of wood products.
Monday, July 23 2018
By Carter Williams, CEO and Managing Director of iSelect
Author J.D. Vance made the case for rural America in his 2016 book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” sparking a months-long debate about the role of city vs. country in our economy, our lifestyles and our politics that’s still ongoing.
We learned the full scope of that debate on Election Day 2016.
But the fact remains, rural America is a key part of American society and of the nation’s economy, encompassing the vast majority of our landmass as well as millions of individual people. That role looks to only increase in the coming years.
Why? Because rural America remains primarily focused on one industry: agriculture. And that industry has been getting chopped to pieces in recent years.