Laying the foundation for sustained success

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The Catamount Institute is launching its second effort to create a sustainable business network in Colorado Springs.

And while its efforts are surely laudable, we hope that they are not overzealous.

While we applaud one of the institute’s goals, “stimulating consumer awareness and commitment to buying sustainable local products and services,” we hope that this push will be contemplative and deliberate, and have a long-range focus.

We as Americans have come to expect to be able to purchase fresh produce and other “seasonal” items year-round. And we’ve become accustomed to living and working in climate-controlled comfort.

Buying locally and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels are admirable long-term goals – but let’s be realistic. It is often cheaper to purchase goods from national companies because their economy of scale allows them to charge lower prices.

And so far, energy from oil, natural gas and coal is less expensive than “greener” alternatives.

Two of the institute’s other goals are to achieve “competitive business advantage from improved environmental performance” and to develop “new business opportunities, attracting new companies to the Pikes Peak region.”

We’re staunch defenders of capitalism, and encouraging a competitive business environment benefits everyone who is involved. Along the same line, attracting new companies to the area can be nothing but beneficial to the local economy.

The institute also hopes to attract “renewable energy industry investment to the Pikes Peak region” and assist and encourage “newly developed energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.”

This is not a new strategy. It’s one that has led to notable successes for other cities along the Front Range, which have succeeded in attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in sustainable energy investments.

Vestas, the world’s largest wind energy company, has launched a major manufacturing plant in Northern Colorado and plans to build a similar facility in Pueblo.

Colorado is well on its way to leading the nation in sustainable energy. But, for whatever reason, the Pikes Peak region has yet to enhance its economic base with national-scale “green” companies.

At present, investment in sustainable energy companies has come to a standstill, inhibited by both the credit crisis and the sharp decline in the price of oil.

These conditions are unlikely to last forever, so, as Catamount reminds us, we need to formulate and implement strategies to attract the sustainable companies that will lead the nation into the future.

Diversifying the economic base and encouraging investment in the region will benefit both green and non-green focused businesses.

But what we most hope the institute and the network are able to achieve is the goal of “making sustainability and conservation a foundation of business strategy, policies and practices.”

Changing the mindset, which won’t happen overnight, could provide a foundation upon which to build for the future.

And with a “sustained” effort, we hope and expect sustainability will become the norm – not a lofty goal to which we often pay lip service, but just as often relegate to the back burner.