Study: ‘Green Economy' Growing in Mississippi | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Study: ‘Green Economy' Growing in Mississippi

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Dek Terrell said a survey of "green" jobs in Mississippi has good news for the state's economy.

Sept. 29, 2011

The number of "green jobs" in Mississippi will grow by 18.5 percent over the next 10 years and add 9,000 new jobs to the state, if a recent survey is correct. Mississippi's overall employment is expected to grow 12 percent during that time.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security released the survey findings at a conference on "greening Mississippi's economy" this morning. The survey looked in part at the number of workers who spend more than half their time working in categories such as renewable energy, pollution reduction, recycling and conservation.

The government policy alone does not make the green economy grow. Typically as people in a society overall get wealthier, they devote a greater percentage of the economy to improving the environment and their quality of life. New technology and innovations also reduce the cost of "going green."

Dek Terrell, director of Louisiana State University's Division of Economic Development, worked on the study. "One of the things that you see is a gradual greening of the economy, both in Mississippi and the U.S. as a whole," Terrell said. "... When I look out over a period of 30 to 40 years, the idea of 'green' is not a fad."

Officials from Mississippi and Louisiana partnered to survey businesses about green jobs last year as part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. About 20 similar surveys were conducted around the country. Terrell said the survey should provide a baseline for understanding how much the green economy impacts employment, as well as studying the potential for job growth and what skills employers need in new hires.

Terrell said that the percentage of Mississippi jobs in renewable energy was significantly higher than in Louisiana. Mississippi also has a leg up on the biofuels industry because of its natural resources, Terrell said, making the state competitive in the renewable energy market.

"One of the great pieces of news for Mississippi from this is that Mississippi is not running 50th in (renewable energy)," he said.

At the time of the survey, the vacancy rate for green jobs was 6.9 percent, with more than 1,000 job openings--much higher than the typical rate, which is about 2 percent. Terrell said the highest job vacancy rate ever observed in a state as a whole was 6.5 percent in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. The high number of job openings means there are many opportunities for employment in green industries, Terrell said, but employers may be having trouble finding workers with the skills they need.

Mary Allen, workforce coordinator for the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, which includes Hinds County, said workers in the area need more training and education to fill prospective employers' needs. Allen said workforce development and economic development must work hand-in-hand.

"Once we have identified those occupations and industries that we need to focus on ... we can bring the community college system into play and work together to provide the training that we need," she said.

Allen's agency offers programs to fund on-the-job training and community college classes, among others, through the WIN job centers.

MDES has also released a website with more detailed findings from the study about the green jobs market in Mississippi, as well as how much the study predicts various green industries and jobs will grow over the next 10 years. The website also has listings of green jobs and resources for finding training for the green jobs sector. Visit the Mississippi Green Jobs website at greenjobs.mdes.ms.gov.

MDES will hold a similar conference in Biloxi tomorrow to talk about the study's findings. For details or to register for the conference, visit the Mississippi Department of Employment Security's website and click on the Mississippi Green Jobs: Gulf Coast Area link near the bottom of the page.

For information:
Green jobs survey
Projected job growth

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