Gardens of Babylon featured in The Tennessean

Nashville among leaders in clean job gains

By Katy Hirst
The Tennessean

Some environmentally conscious industries in Middle Tennessee are thriving, giving Nashville one of the fastest-growing green economies in the nation, a new report says.

Nashville ranked 11th among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas for job growth in green industries, according to the nonprofit Brookings Institution. Released today, the report looked at data from 2003 to 2010 and evaluated each state and metropolitan area in the United Stateson number of clean jobs, annual wages, growth and other factors.

With 17,913 green jobs, Nashville placed 28th for number of positions. However, green employment grew by 6.9 percent annually, ranking 11th in the nation for growth.

Green jobs, ranging from transportation to organic farming, give better pay for a modest education, according to Brookings. The median annual wage for Nashville’s clean employment is $37,705, almost $3,000 higher than the median for all jobs.

Gardens of Babylon, an organic gardening company in Nashville, has grown by about 25 percent a year since 2003, said Mark Kerske, co-owner.

Kerske said he has noticed people in Nashville are becoming more passionate about going green, saying it just makes sense. He believes the government should promote green businesses.

“We are talking about just our survival as a civilization,” Kerske said. “The more chemicals and toxins we pollute our planet with, we are definitely in trouble.”

Mayor Karl Dean said Nashville offers incentives for green companies, such as expedited permitting. After creating the Office of Environment and Sustainability in 2010, Dean said, he hopes the city leads the private sector in going green by example.

“Given our universities and given the sort of knowledge base we have here, and the entrepreneurial spirit that is present in Nashville, we’re ideally suited to be one of the more responsive cities to a new emerging market,” he said.

Most green jobs in Nashville involve enforcing environmental laws. Other large industries include businesses that make energy-efficient appliances and waste management. Some of the fastest- growing industries include organic farming, green architecture and pollution reduction.

More on the Way

New projects not included in the report also are coming to Middle Tennessee, said Chris Bowles, director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability. These new green projects, such as the Hemlock Semiconductor plant in Clarksville, opening next year to produce the basic element of solar-electric panels and computer chips, will bring even more clean jobs to the area.

The Nashville green economy is growing at a faster rate than Tennessee’s sustainable economy, which is ranked 14th among the states.

The Tennessee legislature made green measures a priority over the past few years, offering tax credits to green energy manufacturers. In 2010, the legislature gave tax breaks for clean technology, such as geothermal, hydrogen, solar and wind energy.

Dean said the state has been a great example of promoting clean economies.

“I think there is a huge sensitivity now in the world to have an economy that deals with issues related to the environment and makes for a more sustainable community,” Dean said. “And to be in a position to create jobs and to help accomplish that goal is a good thing for our city. And, we just want to see what is going on here right now continue to happen.”

Contact Caty Hirst at or 615-259-8088.

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