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Alternative Energy, High-Tech Development Driving California's Economy into New Year

Area Development Online Research Desk (Dec/Jan 09)
"The gold rush started California's economic climb, and the `green rush' will take us and the world into this new century," says Bill McGowan, California's deputy secretary for economic development and commerce. He notes that the bulk of growth in the green technology niche is rooted in the categories of solar, alternative fuels, energy efficiency, green building, and water technology.

Tesla Motors in San Jose is helping the drive towards green technology with a project that includes construction of a $250 million factory for the production of a new $60,000 electronic sedan, as well as the company's headquarters. The Tesla campus, which will employ 1,000 people, is slated to begin production in late 2010. The city's deal gives Tesla an 89-acre parcel that the company can occupy rent-free for 10 years, after which the rent jumps to $1.5 million per year. The city's goal includes adding 25,000 green tech jobs in 15 years. As part of the state's ongoing commitment to clean technology, a new incentive program waives the sales tax on investment in new manufacturing equipment for Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs).

Besides fertilizing green projects, the state has passed legislation to promote site preparation and medical research. The state passed proposition 1B and 1C in 2006, a total bond package that includes authorization for almost $20 billion of state general obligation bonds for infrastructure improvements, and 2.8 billion for housing. Also Proposition 71 earmarked $3 billion to support funding for stem-cell research.

McGowan says that most high-tech industry classifications are represented throughout the state: high tech in the Silicon Valley, agri-science in the central valley, biotech in the San Diego area, and entertainment technology in Los Angeles. "We have more Nobel laureates, research and development dollars, and venture capital than any other state," says McGowan.

Innovative leaders in information and computer sciences such as Yahoo, eBay, and Google are connected to California, grabbing global attention. California is the first state to be the official partner of CeBIT, the world's largest trade fair for digital business solutions and information and communications technology (ICT) that will take place in Germany in March. In previous years, CeBIT has partnered with other nations, but never an individual state.

In his 2007 inaugural address, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger compared California's economic strength, population, and technological force to that of a nation-state. If California were a nation, it would be ranked among the 10 countries for gross domestic product. McGowan says that the weak dollar makes it seem as though we are offering "bargain basement" prices in the United States. He adds that half of the projects locating in California are from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and other western European nations.

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