Best Green Businesses

By Hannah Wallace December 31, 2008

When we launched our Best Green Businesses contest last fall, we worried that we might not get enough businesses to make it work and that many of the companies that did submit a nomination might be making only minor efforts for the sake of self-promotion (that’s called “green washing”).

I’m pleased to say that neither of those worries came true.

We received 65 nominations and were impressed at the depth of commitment Sarasota-Manatee companies have made to creating goods and services that help preserve our natural resources and reduce our impact on the earth. You can read about the six winners starting on page 26.

In addition to our editors, our judges included Jerry Karnas, the Florida director of the Environmental Defense Fund, and John Burgess, a Sarasota-based global energy investor. Both were keen to weed out any company with token green credentials and had the background and knowledge to evaluate the impact companies were having on the environment.

Our winners are not just environmental do-gooders. They are smart and creative strategists who see opportunity in going green. They are also some of the most upbeat people we’ve interviewed in recent months. As so much of the economy locally and nationally is shrinking, these green businesses are talking about expanding, and they’re optimistic that the field of alternative energy will be the next big thing.

Government is giving even more confidence to entrepreneurs who want to focus on alternative energies. The Fed’s economic bailout included a provision to extend the solar tax credit another eight years (it was supposed to expire in December 2008), convincing several of the winners on our list that we’ll see more capital investment in green research and development. President-elect Obama is proposing an economic stimulus package that includes a provision to make public buildings greener, which would create many jobs. And here in Florida, our governor has made alternative energy a priority and is pushing to have 20 percent of the state’s electricity coming from renewable sources.

Closer to home, Craig Hall, one of our winners and a founder of Sunovia, a renewable energy company, says local entrepreneurs have reason to hope. Hall has raised $18 million for his company in this region. “We don’t have a college to draw on, but we have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit and former CEOs of Fortune 500s. And there’s a lot of money here,” he says. Hall believes that small innovative companies in the energy sector, like his, will keep the United States dominant. “It makes perfect sense to do that right now. We can’t sustain ourselves on fossil fuels,” he says.

Filed under
Show Comments