Surprise! Economy in Wichita greener than it seems

No one would confuse Wichita as a home for tree huggers, but even Wichita has taken its place in the green economy in recent years.

Wichita actually has thousands of jobs tied to improving the environment — in businesses such as organic farming, insulated building materials and wind turbine parts.

But what makes the green economy different today is that it also attracts people who simply want to do well — as in, make money — rather than people who want to do good.

A recent study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think-tank, said that the Wichita metro area had nearly 4,000 public or private jobs linked to improving the environment.

The green sector nationally slowed more than the overall economy in the past three years, because much of it was tied to construction. But in Wichita, it has actually grown faster than the national average since 2007.

And Kansas ranks even higher in a sub-sector of green jobs that Brookings has dubbed "cleantech." Because of its presence in biofuels and wind power, Kansas was ranked first among all states for its size, growth and concentration. Cleantech includes trailblazing technologies such as solar photovoltaic, wind, biofuels/biomass, carbon storage and management, battery technologies, electric vehicle technologies, and more.

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