Douglas administration convenes Economic Response Team

first_imgMontpelier, VT. – The administration of Governor Jim Douglas has called the first meeting of a group of officials from state government, business, and non-government organizations that will provide a rapid response to Vermont companies facing difficulties.The Economic Response Team, a collaborative effort of the state’s economic development partners proposed by the Governor as part of his Inaugural Address, will meet Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at the Pavilion Building in Montpelier from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.”As we did with the Fuel and Food Partnership, the Economic Response Team will bring together the private and public sector to help Vermont companies at risk due to the current economic downturn,” Governor Douglas said. “By cutting through red tape and bringing all of our combined resources to bear, we can help preserve and even grow jobs.”A small team of representatives from government agencies such as Departments of Economic Development and Labor and the General Assembly, private businesses; and groups like the Regional Development Corporations; the Vermont Economic Development Authority; the Vermont Economic Progress Council; the USDA Rural Development Office and the Vermont Small Business Development Center will comprise the ERT.That kind of quick action could be critical in influencing a company’s decision to close, downsize, or move jobs elsewhere, one economic development official said.”More and more of our employers are part of national or international firms,” said Tim Smith, Executive Director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation. “They make decisions in response to global forces that require fast action. Being able to step up and give them information or help on short notice is critical.”Responses from the Economic Response Team could include state, federal, local, or private assistance with training, financing, lowering utility costs, improving workplace safety, finding opportunities for international trade, government contracting opportunities, and permitting issues.”Our goal is to improve the communications and information sharing among businesses, state government, and economic development partners so that we can identify sooner companies that may be in distress,” said Commissioner of Economic Development Betsy Bishop, who will lead the team. “That will allow us to respond more quickly.”The Emergency Response Team will devise a plan to address an employer’s need, and then appoint a case manager who will direct a group of partners to execute whatever steps need to be taken.”By involving regional development corporations, trade associations, chambers of commerce, bankers and others in the process, we can get more timely information and provide a more timely response,” said Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Kevin Dorn. “This could even allow us to seize opportunities for expansion that present themselves.”last_img read more

The Vertical Garden

first_imgGreen walls, or “vertical gardens,” are walls partly composed of or filled in with live plant matter. They filter air and water, soak up carbon dioxide and help lessen the “heat island” effect of urban areas while reducing air conditioning costs in their host buildings. Pictured: a vertical garden at the Anataeum Hotel in London. Credit: Niall Napier, FlickrDear EarthTalk: I’ve heard of green roofs, but what are “green walls?”— P. Spencer, Alcoa, TNGreen walls (also known as biowalls, vertical gardens or vertical vegetated complex walls) are wall structures partly composed of or filled in with growing plant matter. More than just easy on the eyes, green walls work like green roofs by filtering air and water, soaking up carbon dioxide and helping lessen the “heat island” effect of urban areas while reducing air conditioning costs in their host buildings.The self-proclaimed creator of the vertical garden concept, French botanist Patrick Blanc, pioneered the use of hydroponic cultivation techniques—plants grow in an irrigated mineral nutrient solution without the need for a soil substrate—to create large green wall installations in both residential settings and within larger public structures and even office buildings from Singapore to San Francisco and points in between.Blanc’s installations start by placing a metal frame on a load-bearing wall or structure. The frame supports a 10-millimeter-thick PVC plate, upon which are stapled two 3-millimeter-thick layers of polyamide felt. “These layers mimic cliff-growing mosses and support the roots of many plants,” he says, adding that a network of pipes and valves provides a nutrient solution of dissolved minerals needed for plant growth. “The felt is soaked by capillary action with this nutrient solution, which flows down the wall by gravity.”“The roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need, and excess water is collected at the bottom of the wall by a gutter before being re-injected into the network of pipes: The system works in a closed circuit.” Plants are chosen for their ability to grow in this type of environment and depending on available light.“Each vertical garden is a unique wall composition of various types of plants that has to take into account the specific surroundings of the place in which it is created,” says landscape architect Michael Hellgren, who founded the firm Vertical Garden Design in 2004. “It is not only the colorful interplay between the plants on a ‘green wall’ that is fascinating, but also the appearance of the wall itself, which changes daily.”Hellgren, who has designed and implemented large green walls in his home country of Sweden as well as in Spain, Portugal and Italy, among other locales, sources plants for his projects from various climate zones around the world. His favorites are so-called “lithophytes”: plants that can grow on rocks, branches and tree trunks without necessarily being rooted in soil. “Among other things these climbing plants have the enormous advantage of their roots acting as excellent natural drainage on the wall,” he adds.While large “vertical gardens” are surely impressive, critics question the sustainability of such endeavors, given the energy inputs needed to run the pumps and other equipment used to maintain proper nutrient and air flows, and the emissions caused by the manufacture and transport of specialized materials. Also, larger green walls need more water than rain alone can provide, and thus don’t necessarily save water. But as the field matures, practitioners are finding wider arrays of plants to choose from that are better at taking care of themselves—and scaling back on inputs and supporting machinery with the hope that one day many of the walls will be self-sustaining gardens that cleanse our dirty air and compromised storm water.CONTACTS: Patrick Blanc, www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com; Vertical Garden Design, www.verticalgardendesign.com.EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.last_img read more