Paving the Way in American Manufacturing

By Nancy Stoner

On a cold February day, I stood in a driveway in an industrial complex in Bladensburg, MD, just outside the nation’s capital. Water from a 500-gallon container was gushing onto the ground in front of me. But rather than forming large puddles and flowing across the parking lot, the water was simply disappearing – not into thin air, but into a special system of permeable pavers called PaveDrain.

Instead of letting rain flow off hard surfaces and carry pollution into local waterways and stormdrains, this innovative product captures it and allows it to slowly filter into the ground. Ernest Maier, a Bladensburg, MD company, manufactures the PaveDrain system and had hosted me for a demo. They are exactly the type of company that President Obama spoke about in his State of the Union address when he laid out a blueprint for an economy that is built to last – one built on American manufacturing, American energy and the skills of American workers.

When the President laid out proposals for how we’ll bring about a new era of American manufacturing, with more good jobs and more products stamped Made in the USA, Ernest Maier is the type of company the President was talking about – a successful American company that manufactures products in America and employs American workers.

This system of permeable pavers that greatly reduce water pollution can be found at the nearby town hall in Bladensburg, in residential driveways in Pennsylvania and in the parking lot of a Ford factory in Louisville. In addition to manufacturing products that reduce water pollution and recharge groundwater, Ernest Maier is taking steps to use clean energy and protect the environment – reusing water at the factory, putting biodiesel in their off-road vehicles, utilizing recycled materials, and working with The Conservation Fund to offset carbon dioxide emissions.

Manufacturers of environmental technology are critical to an economy built to last. In fact, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer and consumer of environmental technology goods and services. The U.S. environmental technology industry is a significant economic engine comprised of approximately 119,000 firms, 99 percent of which are small and medium-sized companies. According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. environmental technology industry in 2008 generated approximately $300 billion in revenues, $43.8 billion in exports, and supported almost 1.7 million jobs.

Let those numbers soak in…they show that our environment and economy can thrive together.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water

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