Notable startups: Tesla, SunPower, Nanosolar
Focus: Green car factories and solar manufacturing plants.
Before Portland, Ore., and San Francisco started competing for the most expansive plug-in electric vehicle infrastructure, San Jose was a testing ground for the technology. It’s part of the city’s innovative economic development strategy. “We want to be the R&D arm for the country,” says Collin O’Mara, cleantech policy strategist for the city. In addition to having an entire cleantech strategy team, the city has become a liaison between local community colleges and companies in an effort to help create real “green jobs,” launched a $3 million venture fund to invest in cleantech back in 2007 (the Economic Development Catalyst fund), and helped bring in the country’s second Underwriters Lab testing facility.
It also doesn’t hurt that the city is in close proximity to the big cleantech VCs on Sand Hill Road, as well as a huge pool of talent compliments of neighboring Stanford University and UC Berkeley. So far, that heady combination has wrestled a Tesla plant away from New Mexico and tempted a number of other cleantech companies, including SunPower and Nanosolar. In fact, O’Mara was so successful as the lead strategist for San Jose, he was just snatched up by the state of Delaware. (This week, O’Mara was nominated as the State of Delaware’s Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, so we may be seeing big things coming out of Dover.)