Energy is the lifeblood of business and communities. The Chamber had this in mind when it created its comprehensive energy policy, drawing on an eclectic mix of contributors, in 2008. It’s a big reason why the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce strives so hard to work closely with utility and transmission companies on energy policy and legislative measures at the local, state and federal levels to insure our region’s business sector has the energy it needs to continue to grow.
The energy sector is also among the most rapidly evolving in the world of business. The technology and advancements in terms of energy exploration, production and utilization are nothing short of amazing. The advancements being made every day in producing cleaner, safer and more efficient sources of energy are changing the world’s economy and bringing more resilience to energy markets.
Among the significant advancements in the energy world – and some of the most important going forward – are in the area of energy efficiency and consumption. It tends to get less attention than some of the other trends in the energy sector. But the rapidly improving measures in helping commercial and residential energy customers reduce their power use – helping them save money and lower the stress load on regional power grids – has also been a major step forward both for energy companies and their customers.
The Chamber and its economic development partners are making a difference in these areas as well. In the past year, the Chamber teamed up with two national organizations – the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) – to secure federal grant funds for the Chamber Small Business Energy Efficiency Program, providing free energy audits for businesses in the Grand Traverse area. Working with local firms Keen Technical Solutions and E Three Inc., area businesses are able to bring in energy experts to identify cost savings opportunities for owned or leased properties. The program is ongoing and you can secure a free energy audit for your business by visiting the Chamber’s website at www.tcchamber.org.
The energy audit program dovetails perfectly with a loan program launched by the Chamber’s business financing partners at Venture North. Its Energy Efficiency Loan Fund, created in cooperation with Traverse City Light & Power, offers zero interest loans to businesses serviced by TCLP to make energy upgrades to their operations. More than a dozen area businesses – from office buildings and shopping centers to retailers, hoteliers and restaurants – have taken advantage of the program; some multiple times because of its positive impact. More information on the Energy Efficiency Loan program and other business financing programs is available at www.venturenorthfunding.org. Additional access to low- or zero-interest loans for energy efficiency improvements is available through the state’s “Michigan Saves” program.
These companies are not only markedly lowering their utility bills – in some cases by more than the terms of their energy loans – they’re also improving the appearance and health of their workplaces and significantly reducing their ongoing maintenance costs. It’s a rewarding thing when a business organization can offer tangible benefits to its members that also promote environmental stewardship, especially in a region where our natural resources are such a special part of our quality of life.
The Chamber will continue to explore ways to keep our region on the cutting edge of improved energy technology. Our involvement in the national organization Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE) is a pipeline to some of the country’s leading experts and programs to promote and implement clean and renewable energy. We pledge to serve as a conduit for our region’s business community for the latest and best information and resources from the energy sector – and bring power to the people in a responsible, sustainable way.
Doug Luciani is CEO of TraverseCONNECT and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at doug@traverseCONNECT.org