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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

You have to give the Texans credit. They do some things incredibly well.  Take economic development.  Texas has the most Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States (at 58 HQs).  These guys and gals understand how to build financial structures that attract industry.

And now we see that those savvy Texans are making a land grab (photon grab) for solar manufacturing business in Texas.  The state is expected to soon approve a $500M bill aimed at subsidizing small scale solar users

Texas has executed so much better than some states (like mine, Colorado) at attracting headquarters and fostering development of market segment ecosystems that fuel the local business economy.  If they crack the solar grail, I’ll have to say they’re brilliant.  And I’m a New Englanda.

The business of solar is fascinating to me.  How Germany has leveraged a feed-in tariff system to lead the world.  And how, unlike the semi industry, solar manufacturing jobs are likely to be based where the projects are to be built and customer installed due to the sensitivities of glass and the cost of shipping it.  So what does that mean?   States need to get moving in their legislatures and get attracting those jobs, which means building the financing systems that will incubate the projects and ecosystems.

I’m told that citizens in Germany don’t scoff at the annual fee on their electric bill that underwrites their system as they see it as a direct investment towards clean energy and local clean tech jobs.

Could Texas be at the top of a future list of States With The Largest Share of the U.S. Renewable Energy Industry?  They surely know how to attract businesses.

Crazy like foxes, they are.

I have found that corporate communications briefs for technology companies tend to have one thing in common.  “Make people see the amazing innovation we have here” they say.  Sometimes that innovation is easy to find, sometimes not.  The motivation for wanting that innovation brand association however can be murky but often has an undercurrent of ‘we want our brand to be more respected, valued, get us out of commodity positioning’.

So when real commitment to market- and economy-moving innovation comes along, you have to applaud it.

In this economy, you need to scream your sincere appreciation for it, because it shows a commitment to be stronger tomorrow than you are today.

Example: Intel announcing this week a $7B investment over the next two years as they upgrade their facilities for 32nm technology used for the production of new faster, smaller, energy efficient chips.  (Note: Intel is a client).

Intel CEO Paul Otellini said it so well this week on NPR.   http://tiny.cc/4FLW7   “New technology is what pulls companies in technology out of recession,” he said.

And when asked what feedback he gave President Obama on the stimulus package, he did not hesitate to support plans to spend on much needed infrastructure investments, with the National Science Foundation, quality of classroom infrastructure, and tackling long-overdue problems that technology can solve, like electronic medical records.  “My God,” Otellini said.  “How long have we talked about that (Health IT)”?

How long indeed.

And just how long have we applauded brands for ‘innovation’ when there was little substance beyond an island in second life?

Intel has set a bar.  And the best thing about that bar is if you really listen to what they are saying, they want more companies to meet and beat that bar.  A rising tide raises all ships.

Lets not get amnesia about that bar on innovation when things get better, OK?  Who else do you see raising the bar?  I’d love to applaud them.

In the past few years I saw a lot of PR agencies launching a Clean Tech Practice. In the interest of full disclosure, I was very tempted to do the same. I am passionate about tech and a big fan of everything green  (and I am not even Irish!)

It was during a conversation with a major clean tech company that I understood that Clean Tech is just a label, not where “clean” tech companies should play nor should position themselves. It’s about Energy, or better yet about Renewable Energies and how new technologies can find new solutions to old problems (urgently).

At that point a light bulb went on (and it was a fluorescent bulb!) — As Ogilvy PR, we have a lot of expertise in green IT (from data centers to semiconductors), and we do have a lot of expertise in traditional energy and renewable energies — so the easy part was to combine our existing strengths in both public affairs and technology PR. Et voila! Suddenly we had something the market was craving for. An agency with deep knowledge of who influences and decides public policy and how to reach them with politically effective communications, while offering a broader perspective into technology and business-to-business PR that looks beyond product public relations.

It’s not a new practice, it’s not a new group, it’s just the combination of expertise we already have within our firm. Now available to our clients. Don’t just call it Clean Tech.

As part of my personal quest to learn more about green and renewable energy technology, I attended the recently founded Renewable Energies Business Network or REBN’s first networking reception in downtown Denver last week.

As one who considers himself fairly well read on the subject of green, I was amazed as to how much more I learned from talking to people in the industry.

The event drew 60 professionals, all from different segments of the local renewable energy market in the Denver Metro area. And from the robust attendance and buzz in the room, it would appear that Denver is a hotbed for this industry and that there’s a lot of excitement about the emerging clean-tech boom.

I chatted with folks of some of the usual suspects in clean tech – wind power and solar PV manufacturers and installers like Clipper Wind and Namaste Solar but also learned about a new emerging part of the industry much lower down on the hype curve - algae biofuels.

While I certainly left the event much more informed about important industry legislation like the proposed Lieberman Warner Climate Security Act, I also couldn’t help but feel some déjà vu, like perhaps this could be the dot com boom all over again.

Much like during the dot com boom, there are countless small local players offering similar services. Will they all survive, consolidate or is there enough of a market to sustain all of them? And while my train of thought started to move down the path of – have I not seen this before, really, how many pet e-commerce sites do you need, it was suddenly brought back to positivity by a conversation I had with an exec from Vibrant Solar.

While some in the media are already saying that clean-tech is a boom ready to bust, the industry guys say this boom is just getting started – and it will go on indefinitely.

The chief reason – it’s all about the money. The fact is, a very small percentage of Americans will go green because it feels right. We live in a capitalist society where money talks above all else. And every day it makes more and more fiscal sense to purchase solar panels by tapping into the growing list of government rebates, to get rid of your SUV and bike to work and for the utilities to build or lease wind farms.

So although I left the event perhaps with some of the clean-tech kool-aid aftertaste, once it wore off, I still felt myself still thinking that this is just the beginning…

So I’d like to hear what you think, is clean-tech just a boom and a fad or do you think it’s hear to stay?

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide