Thursday night, Wilmington officially became a "Green Enterprise Zone". It adopted the plan in response to DHL moving its operations and taking more than 9000 jobs elsewhere. That's where Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert come in. They're two recent college graduates who put aside their plans for the Peace Corps to help save their hometown by helping Wilmington go green.
Solar panel installation, weatherizing homes, energy efficiency research for products and services; those are some examples of what Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert define as part of a green economy. So does President Obama. His stimulus package includes billions of dollars for this. But here's where it gets tricky. With all this money unleashed, figuring out how to get it and then use it can feel a bit like heading into a new frontier.
"It's almost like the Wild West," says Mark Rembert, co founder of Energize Clinton County, "Everybody is just trying to figure this stuff out. As we worked with the community and we thought about it in relation to what was happening with the stimulus, we began to realize that Wilmington, probably like ninety nine percent of communities across the countries, doesn't have the capacity or the expertise or the understanding to facilitate this type of development."
Energize Clinton County is the organization that Rembert and Taylor Stuckert formed when DHL left Wilmington.
It's not quite the stand-off at high noon, but Taylor Stuckert says he can feel a palpable tension in Wilmington right now.
"We're starting to see more people that are getting nervous that the severences are running out and they need to find work, and there's no work available," says Stuckert.
So, Stuckert and Rembert, with the help of city and county officials, created the "Green Enterprise Zone". It's basically a blue print for how the town can revitalize its economy. What sets it apart is the formation of a council that will be responsible for spearheading projects. It'll establish a grant program to attract and help fund green businesses. Also, Rembert says the council can be the unified voice for Wilmington that can lobby for stimulus money and put it to good use.
"It's like, how are we going to spend this money as quickly as it's coming out? And that's where there has to be a real collaboration between the local level, the state level, and the federal level," says Rembert.
They know that there's no silver bullet in solving Wilmington's problems. But Stuckert says they think this could put them on the path for economic sustainability.
"I just think if we're fortunate, and if we can get things rolling, and we're able to brace the storm that will hit, in 5 years we'll be one of the strongest communities in the country," says Stuckert, "I think that would be awesome."
Ohio is set to receive 96 million dollars in stimulus money for the state's energy program. If the "Green Enterprise Zone" works, Rembert and Stuckert think Wilmington could be well poised to receive some of that funding. They also hope this plan will serve another purpose: being the framework that other communities can use do the same thing.