The Business of Green

Jeffrey Taylor earns a living creating 2-D and 3-D animations to illustrate engineering processes and criminal court testimonies, but last year a client persuaded him to go in a new direction–toward helping people picture the benefits of environmental sustainability. He was a bit apprehensive about venturing into a brand new area, but his research revealed a growing sector in need of just the type of cutting-edge visuals his business provides.

In addition to pursuing its other projects, Taylor’s company, CrossPlatform DeSign L.L.C. in Richmond, Virginia, is now negotiating three green illustration projects worth at least $150,000. The company’s graphics will help the public and policymakers visualize green processes, from energy-conserving rooftops to runoff-reducing permeable pavements. Contracts from clients such as the City of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia will help 2010 revenues surpass $400,000, more than double the $171,000 the company grossed last year.

Taylor is just one of a number of savvy black entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses by tapping into the multibillion-dollar green economy, which includes mission-driven recycling and alternative energy companies as well as traditional businesses looking to squeeze out waste from their supply chains.

His timing couldn’t be better. Companies are recognizing their need to reduce energy consumption and help consumers do the same and, though there’s considerable doubt about climate change, there’s also considerable urgency about reversing its course. And there are more federal dollars flowing in support of environmental causes. The Obama administration invested an historic $80 billion in clean energy programs last year, including smart grid electricity, home energy efficiency, and state and local renewable energy projects.

United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has said this is just the beginning. “We are far from the end of the conversation on the green economy,” she says. “This president is nowhere near being done pushing clean energy as a way to solve our problems with respect to our need for jobs, our need for a clean environment, and our need for national security–because we are way too dependent on foreign oil.”

Together these developments suggest new markets and funds for vigilant minority entrepreneurs. “There are tremendous opportunities, especially with the administration talking about increasing minority participation in the green areas,” Taylor says. “But access is still a problem. Where is the money? How do you find grant programs? How do you partner with larger corporations who hold the big contracts?”

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