Costa Rica News – Officials in San Ramón, Costa Rica, on a quest to establish a renewable energy development and manufacturing hub, are cultivating ties with Austin business, university and city leaders. An exploratory sister city delegation from San Ramon visited Austin in July 2012. A series of 15 meetings with targeted Austin technology and educational entities set the stage for further collaboration between parties.
During their visit to Austin last year, the group met with officials at the city of Austin, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the UT Energy Institute, UT’s IC2 Institute, the Texas Climate & Carbon Exchange, development firm Catellus Group, Pecan Street Inc., Firefly LED Lighting, Treehouse and other environmental-focused institutions and organizations.
The meetings focused on opportunities for collaboration in areas such as renewable energy generation, university exchange programs and green building supply exports.
Advantages to Austin business and public entities include foreign market access for products and services, environmental branding with Costa Rica, reciprocal research facilities, and, potentially, carbon reduction trade credits.
Costa Rica is recognized as one of the most sustainable and environmentally conscious countries in the world, producing 90 percent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources.
With its goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2021, the Costa Rican renewable energy field and related carbon neutral industry is poised to expand dramatically in the coming decade. For example, Earth University outside Limon, Costa Rica, is developing carbon neutral certification standards for industry and food products that may be adopted on the international stage, a trend started by working with Austin-based Whole Foods Market Inc.
IBM Corp., Intel Corp., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other major international corporations have established facilities in the country.
Situated less than three hours by air from Houston, the San Ramón group is positioning itself as a major player in Costa Rica´s carbon-neutral effort.
Spearheading the economic development project are Mike Styles, founder and president of the San Ramón Community Action Alliance, and Glen Nickerson, a renewable energy executive and mechanical engineer formerly at Motorola, Sematech and AMD. Also on board is Jorge Araya, former president of the San Ramón Chamber of Commerce and president of the San Ramón Carbon Neutral Foundation. The group is actively seeking foreign investment in a Clean Technology Industrial Park, which will include solar energy component manufacturing, waste-to-energy facilities, green building materials, and a variety of other energy auditing and sustainability projects.
“We have been focusing on Austin because of its reputation as a world-class innovator in green initiatives,” Styles said. “The development model used in Austin which relies on collaboration between government, education and business has produced tangible results which we believe can be modeled in San Ramón. We also believe that San Ramón has much to offer Austin, as witnessed by the overwhelming openness and willingness to collaborate shown during every meeting we took: they want to help. We believe there is much to be accomplished based on these shared values and many bridges that can be created.”
Foreign investment in Costa Rica is facilitated through the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency and the Foreign Trade Corp. of Costa Rica.
A LinkedIn group has been established at Austin to Costa Rica – Building Bridges through which interested parties can contact other members and join in the conversation.
Michael G. Albrecht, Contributing writer fr the Austin Business Journal