WASHINGTON -- Low interest loans to help small businesses improve their energy efficiency is one of the best ways to grow jobs in rural America.
That's the message Dr. Helen Sanders of Minnesota-based SAGE Electrochromics brought to Washington today at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Committee, is from SAGE's home state.
Dr. Sanders was invited by the Committee to describe how SAGE was able to start construction on a new green manufacturing facility in Minnesota's rural Rice County. The project has already generated hundreds of new jobs, with many more to follow once the plant goes online.
Her presentation was part of committee hearings on "Growing Jobs in Rural America," in support of legislation that provides loans to electric cooperatives, which in turn loan money to rural businesses to make their facilities more energy efficient.
SAGE is funding construction of its new plant in part with a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as well as a loan from a local electric cooperative under a program funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). SAGE develops ultra-energy-efficient dynamic window glass that optimizes daylight in buildings. The new high-tech glass dramatically cuts energy consumption and improves the human experience in buildings through improved thermal and visual comfort.
"SAGE has advanced the technology to the point at which it is expanding its manufacturing facility," Sanders said. "The company is constructing a 300,000-square-foot plant, in Faribault, Minnesota, that has already created over 200 construction jobs, and will create about 160 permanent green jobs. The USDA financing provides a valuable contribution to this project. It will support the cost of energy-efficiency enhancements to our factory."
The program is part of the Rural Energy Savings Program Act introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in 2010 to help reduce energy bills through energy-efficiency renovations. The program assists electric cooperatives by facilitating their offering of low-interest financing to their customers, allowing small businesses to repay the loan through savings on their monthly bills.
Dr. Sanders is a recognized industry expert with more than 15 years experience in the glass industry, dynamic glass technology and manufacturing. She has a Master's degree in Natural Sciences (Chemistry) and Doctorate in Surface Science from the University of Cambridge, England. She is an active member of a number of industry organizations, serving as the chair of the GANA Energy Committee and as the chair of ASTM's Chromogenic Glazings task group.
The "Growing Jobs in Rural America" hearing was held at the G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building. For further information, visit http://ag.senate.gov.