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Ryan Mulholland is an international trade specialist in the Manufacturing and Services unit of the International Trade Administration specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Scott Dietz, VP of Investor Relations at Owens Corning World Headquarters in Toledo, Ohio led David Kincaid and me around an impressive facility built as a model of sustainable architecture on a tiny reed and grass covered spit of land jutting into the Maumee River. Glass artworks from a NYC artist who incorporated the legendary glass fibers Owens Corning is so famous for graced doorways, halls, and the soaring entryway to the building. The tour reminded me that U.S. industry is a place of world class innovation—and in Toledo, Ohio, a city once devastated by economic downturns, that spirit of American innovation is alive and well, as energy efficiency has become a cornerstone for the city’s new growth and prosperity.
On September 21, 2009, the International Trade Administration (ITA) organized a Forum on Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing at Owens Corning to help manufacturers learn about state and federal resources available to promote efficiency. Part of an ITA Energy Efficiency Initiative aimed at promoting the development and deployment of energy efficient technologies, this one-day event attracted 86 participants. Toledo was chosen because of its efforts to reinvigorate its manufacturing industry by taking a leadership role in developing the clean and efficient industries of tomorrow.
Presenters from ITA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program, and the Environmental Protection Administration’s Industrial Energy Star Program spoke about their programs. Others from the State of Ohio Energy Office, Ford Motor Company, Eaton Technologies, Rockwell Automation, North Star BlueScope Steel, and Energy Industries of Ohio shared about their experiences with and the positive benefits derived from energy efficiency improvements. Each participant gave a brief presentation on the theme of energy efficiency.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce Mary Saunders introduced the event and moderated both panel discussions. Energy efficiency “represents a key component of the Obama administration’s national strategy to support job growth,” Saunders noted, adding that “with efficiency, you don’t have to depend on scientific breakthroughs or engineering miracles… (but rather)… is a way of maximizing the amount of energy you get from existing sources.”
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur addressed the group noting that energy efficiency improvements are key to Toledo’s ongoing success, and added a word of congratulations to Owens Corning for winning EPA’s Energy Star Partner Award.
Following a keynote address from Owens Corning’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Frank O’Brien-Bernini, forum participants visited the Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator at the University of Toledo.
Reactions by participants ranged from surprise at the number of available resources to gratitude, upon hearing there are individuals in government standing on behalf of American industry. It was an effort well worth the hard work and cost.