Green EconomySt. Lucie County, a Certified Green Government, has been recognized nationally and internationally for success in creating its Green Economy. Through commitment to education and training, research and development, manufacturing and business incentives and financing models, the stage is set for an explosion of growth in clean energy that will build a Sustainable St. Lucie County.
St. Lucie County is a Florida county blessed with an abundance of natural resources, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie River and acres of pristine wetlands and woodlands. Those natural resources have been protected for almost 20 years due to a voter-approved bond referendum that forever preserved over 7000 acres of environmental lands. But the greening of St. Lucie County was only beginning.
The quiet community has been on the cutting edge of the green economic revolution, attracting major companies that provide high paying, clean jobs. Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and the Mann Research Center anchor St. Lucie County's growing life sciences sector.
Research and Development
The Treasure Coast Research Park offers tenants over 800 acres for research and development of alternative energies, agricultural biosciences, aquaculture, robotics and supporting industries. Another 850 acres in agricultural fields provides opportunities for partnerships with the USDA Horticultural Research Laboratory or the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences.
EMPOWER St. Lucie
St. Lucie County recently received $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, the only community in Florida and one of only 20 communities in the nation. This grant will provide initial funding for a far-reaching effort to make solar and energy efficiency in St. Lucie County affordable and attainable. By doing so, the demand for these technologies will increase, creating opportunities for businesses that specialize in green technologies and attracting companies that develop and manufacture these products.
Using grant monies, the County has created the Solar & Energy Loan Fund, a nonprofit revolving loan fund that will allow homeowners and businesses to make improvements that increase their energy efficiency. From weatherization to appliances to solar hot water and photovoltaic systems, the fund will use a voluntary tax assessment on the property to make the loan payments affordable.
The loan fund has caught the attention of numerous local banks which are anxious to participate. Plans to convert the nonprofit loan fund to a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) will allow the banks to obtain credits for investing in the fund under the Community Reinvestment Act. To date, $15 million has been pledged by PNC Bank, Oculina Bank and the IBM Credit Union, ensuring the fund will be able to meet the expected strong consumer and business demand.
The Green District
St. Lucie County’s commitment to innovation was noticed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The mission of theOak Ridge National Laboratory is to “provide solutions to America’s grand scientific challenges”. In order to test emerging energy-saving technology in real-life applications, the Lab has partnered with St. Lucie County and the City of Fort Pierce to designate an area called the Green District. The Green District, located in Fort Pierce, will include commercial buildings, public buildings, schools, homes and even industrial and manufacturing facilities. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Congressman Alcee Hastings and Congressman Tom Rooney have all endorsed this initiative, the first of its kind.
With the Green District project, interest from solar panel, LED and other green technology companies in St. Lucie County has increased exponentially. With Job Growth Incentive Grants, Ad Valorem Tax Exemption and Impact Fee Mitigation programs, St. Lucie County has the ability to put together a powerful incentive program for the right project.
Education & Training
The Green Economy in St. Lucie County cannot benefit its residents unless they are prepared and trained in green technologies. The Green Collar Training Center is a partnership between St. Lucie County, Workforce Solutions and numerous Union apprenticeship programs to train and re-train workers for green jobs. Green workers can continue their education at Indian River State College which is embarking on a new 65,000 square foot alternative energy center. With both Associate and Bachelor degrees available, St. Lucie County residents will be ready and able to take full advantage of the Green Economy.