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Thoughts on education and the development of the bike industry in Austin

Posted Jan 14 2009 6:55pm

orbizmag In its recent issue, Oregon Business Magazine wrote an article about how the bike industry in Oregon has become a $150 million/year industry fueling dozens of startups. With our growing bike culture and fair year-round weather, could Austin build such an industry?

While we have a lot going for us, there is a major component missing in the development of any new industry: education. Oregon Business Magazine credits part of the growth in new businesses to the existence of the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland. This trade school founded in 1981 offers classes in professional bicycle mechanics and repair as well as steel and titanium frame building. Many of their graduates have gone on to work in the industry and found new companies.

So if we want to build a bicycle industry here, where would we start with education? Austin Community College seems like a logical choice, and with the ACC board considering the adoption of a sustainability policy, the timing is fortuitous. While the current draft of the policy is focused on making ACC’s facilities more sustainable, there is no reason why this can not be expanded to include prioritizing new curriculum.

On that note, I addressed the ACC board last night during Citizen Communication with the following statement.

Good evening. My name is Elliott McFadden, and I would like to address the board this evening regarding the proposed new policy on sustainable practices. With global warning and diminishing resources becoming the crisis of our time, I commend the ACC board for moving to toward creating less impact on our planet. I support this proposed policy and encourage the board to adopt it. However, in addition to the excellent actions to improve the efficiency of ACC’s brick and mortar, I would also like to encourage the board to make the support of sustainable industries by the prioritization of new class offerings also a part of this policy. Not only will this help the larger community, it would be in keeping with the educational mission of this institution. ACC has already moved to support green industry in the past with the offering of solar tech certification. We need to take the next step and create a whole sustainable industry curriculum. As an example, ACC could offer classes in bicycle frame building and bike shop mechanics training. Such classes offered in Oregon have helped spur on new bicycle industry businesses and their green jobs to create a $150 million/year industry according to Oregon Business Magazine. The work of students in green building could serve the double purpose of educating and helping to covert older facilities. By not offering comprehensive education for green industry jobs, we are putting Austin and ACC at a disadvantage. Without a strong, green workforce, how can we lure sustainable industry to our region? And without a sustainable curriculum, how can ACC distinguish itself in a competitive education market? So, please make sure your sustainability policies extend to your educational mission in addition to your facilities management. Thank you. 

If you think we need an educational pipeline to build a sustainable industry like bicycle industry in Austin, I encourage you to address the ACC board during citizens communication at the next meeting, Monday, February 2, 6 PM at the ACC Highland Mall Business Center.

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