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Pasadena’s Green Plan Hits the Bottom Line

by Lisa Lilienthal

Pasadena is that rare breed of city; a place where beauty (of the architectural variety) and brains (of the rocket science type) collide. It’s the best of old California, and it is poised for a clean and green future, thanks to a dynamic mayor and a forward-thinking city council. They have laid out an ambitious, seven-point Green City Action Plan, a far-reaching initiative endorsed by the United Nations Green Cities Declaration and Urban Environmental Accords. It addresses urban environmental impacts ranging from energy, waste reduction and urban design, to urban nature, transportation, environmental health and water usage.

The plan is nearly two years in, and the City Council reports progress on every front. In addition to support from sustainability advocates, it has been embraced in a big way by some of Pasadena’s largest businesses.

Green Transportation
It takes more than local support for a transit-oriented infrastructure to green what some would say is a city’s biggest challenge – transportation. It takes entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks and business leaders who will support the cause.

That’s where John Boesel, president and CEO of CALSTART, comes in. This Pasadena-based national nonprofit organization works with companies and communities to develop clean and efficient transportation technologies. CALSTART was founded in 1992, moved to Pasadena in 1998 and recently purchased a headquarters building there.

“Pasadena has a reputation as a forward-looking community,” said Boesel. “We feel strongly that CALSTART needs to be here; in the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area, at the heart of the clean transportation movement. Given the Green City Action Plan, we think Pasadena can become a model city for transportation efficiency.”

Boesel points to Cal-Tech (California Institute of Technology), emerging technologies at the Art Center College of Design and climate change research at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as local sources for the talent and expertise necessary to make Pasadena a leader, particularly in the challenging arena of efficient transportation.

“We need communities that invest in multi-fuel service stations, and individuals and entrepreneurs who will champion the effort,” said Boesel. “CALSTART’s role is varied – facilitator, catalyst, strategic broker – whatever it takes to get the right parties working together and to get them access to expertise and funding. Pasadena is just the city to do this and do it right.

“We are still working to understand the Green City Action Plan and what it means for us and for Pasadena,” he adds, “but we’re extremely excited about the possibilities.”

Clean Tech = Green Tech
It probably stands to reason that a city which is home to Cal-Tech, JPL and the Art Center College of Design would also be home to a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Professor Robert H. Grubbs, one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in 2005 for development of olefin metathesis catalyst technology, has not only demonstrated the viability of his invention, he has co-founded Materia, Inc. with Dr. Mike Giardello and others in 1998 to commercialize the technology.

“Metathesis catalyst technology is inherently green technology,” said Giardello, CEO of Materia, who worked for Professor Grubbs when as a post-doctoral fellow at Cal-Tech in the early 1990s. “Catalyst technology is to product development what enzymes are to a biological system – agents that help chemistry do its job more efficiently, using fewer resources and creating fewer byproducts.”   

An example is Materia’s pioneering work in creating environmentally friendly pesticides that are pheromone-based. Using the company’s proprietary catalyst technology, the reproductive cycle of bugs is interrupted by the benign application of pheromones. It is not a new approach to pest control, but the introduction of catalyst technology means the product is more efficient and less expensive to produce, which translates into broader availability.

As far as Giardello is concerned, Pasadena is the perfect place for Materia to call home. “California leads the nation in clean tech and green tech development,” he said. “Pasadena has a great business climate for clean technology – there is access to venture capital and talent; the city has a real grass roots commitment to sustainability.”

High Tech Trifecta
Eight years ago, Cal-Tech and the City of Pasadena developed a partnership with a goal of growing the high-tech community in the San Gabriel Valley. Fast-forward to 2008 and the public/private partnership that has emerged is Entretech, chaired by Materia's Mike Giardello.

Entretech has expended the partnership to include the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as well. It’s a high-tech trifecta that is bringing technology companies and jobs to the region. While the cross-section of industries has traditionally centered around biotechnology, software developers and aerospace engineering, clean technology is emerging as key in Pasadena.

Entretech empowers entrepreneurs to build new businesses by providing access to educational programs and strategic partnerships, and assistance for academics who are making the transition from classroom to the boardroom.

“We offer a full complement of business development services to support high-tech companies,” explains Executive Director Stephanie Yanchinski. “From locating real estate or finance to supplying leads to talent and strategic partners, we help companies make that leap.” 

“The City of Pasadena is an involved and supportive strategic partner to Entretech,” says Yanchinski. “It makes sense that the Green City Action Plan would help create an economic development opportunity for clean tech.”

 

Note
On June 6, Entretech and the City of Pasadena will host GreenTech 2008, the second annual showcase for start-up companies to preview leading edge technologies that won’t be on the market for another 3 to 5 years.


 



 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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