This year we continued our tradition of having two faculty department lectures. In the fall, Gary Green spoke about his work on “Green Capitalism and Green Jobs.” In the spring, Leann Tigges presented her research on the location of ethanol factories.
In his lecture, Green argued that “the green economy is an enigma because there is little consensus on what these jobs are and how many currently exist.” Despite the absence of a consensus, Green’s review of the available evidence suggests that the green economy has yet to produce many jobs and the jobs it has created are often not “career track.” What is more, the green sector has produced less growth than the rest of the economy during the recession. Green suggested that it might not be possible to build a green economy based on traditional model of economic growth and its value to workers and communities. Instead, he suggested a more sustainable approach that “might consider alternative models that are not dependent on growth and embed economic activities in local markets.”
In her talk, Tigges presented national data on the geographic distribution of ethanol refineries and sought to explain this distribution. The existing literature, according to Tigges, suggests that firm location decisions are largely based on proximity to key factors of production, such as corn and transportation infrastructure. Tigges suggested, however, that social factors may also play an especially important role in location decisions for controversial industries like ethanol. Indeed, her analysis suggests that social capital is especially important in explaining ethanol plant location decisions.
Too often in our busy academic world, we teach and work on our own scholarship without knowing much about the research of colleagues and students right down the hall. The questions and comments in reaction to the lectures by Green and Tigges and the high-energy discussions at the receptions following suggest that our departmental community continues to find these talks stimulating, valuable opportunities for fostering new ideas and building connections with students and colleagues.