American businesses are discovering that their most promising long-term solutions to the challenges of rising energy prices, global competition, and natural resource protection are to be found in sustainable technologies and enterprises.  Business systems that are designed to protect the future while succeeding today are attracting investors, hiring creative talent, and expanding their customer base.  

On January 28, 2005, Sustainable Tompkins hosted 166 local business and community leaders for an afternoon of informative and stimulating presentations from business leaders and Cornell researchers about renewable energy sources, recycling-based manufacturing, innovative pollution abatement methods, and advances in nanotechnology and biological engineering that may lead to a cleaner environment and a new ecology of production.  Cosponsors included the Cornell Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, Triad Foundation, Ithaca College, Tompkins County Solid Waste, and several other Cornell centers and local businesses.

The opening plenary featured Steelcase International on cradle-to-cradle manufacturing processes for their office furniture, DayStar on thin-film photovoltaics, Harbec Plastics on using wind energy and gas-powered microturbines to provide their own electricity, as well as heating and cooling for their manufacturing facility.  Three concurrent sessions focused on alternative energy, innovations that protect natural resources, and emerging technologies such as fuel cells, converting waste streams into both energy and new products, and ways to tap the productive potential of our croplands through new biofuels and bioproducts.  A reception with local food and wine gave participants a chance to interact with 15 exhibitors in the sustainable tech field.

In a constantly changing world, we all know that “business as usual” is a recipe for extinction.  Central NY is in a good position to capitalize on emerging sustainable technologies and create a durable and vibrant economy for the future.  We have an educated workforce, a high quality of life to attract companies and their employees, and major research institutions focused on developing new ways to meet current needs without compromising the rights of future generations.  That’s a recipe for adaptation, survival, and a successful business!