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Green Mecca grows on Coastside

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									                                           “PEOPLE WANT TO WALK THEIR TALK, AND BEING
                                         HERE, THEY’RE NOT JUST IN A CUBICLE, THEY’RE IN
                                              THE MIDST OF THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT.”
                                                           Lauren Casentini, Resource Solutions Group, president




            Green Mecca
       grows on Coastside
                            Half Moon Bay becoming the workplace for
                                   green consultants and professionals
                    a




   Lauren Casentini,
President of Resource
                                            a By Mark Noack/ Photos by Lars Howlett




                                    E
     Solutions Group,
stands in the lobby of                      arth Day isn’t a one-day hiccup for the white-collar denizens of
  her company's Half                        Stone Pine Office Park.
     Moon Bay office.                          For Resource Solutions Group, an energy-efficiency consultancy,
                                            the holiday was basically the company birthday:Their business is
                                            now 3 years old and growing strong. Just six months ago, the busi-
                                            ness had to move out of its Main Street office to a larger space in
                                            order to accommodate its expansion.
                                               When owners of Resource Solutions Group decided to move to
                                            Stone Pine Office Park, they shared the same buildings with some
                                            like-minded companies. Their neighbors were TRC Solutions, a
                                            global renewable power advisory company, and SWCA, an environ-
                                            mental permitting consultancy. Even Odwalla, the Coca Cola-
                                            owned organic juice company with local roots has its main office

24 JUNE 2009 | Review Magazine
in the plaza.
  RSG staff celebrated Earth Day by
taking half the day off to clean up
Dunes Beach. Then, in the late after-
noon, they invited the office park to
join them for a barbecue and social
mixer. People chatted surrounding an
ice chest of juice and tea, and the talk
inevitably turned to environmental-
ism.
  Wasn’t a propane barbecue grill a
crude cooking source of CO2 emis-
sions, asked one attendee playfully?
  An executive at the RSG business
found she had to defend her decision
to use a grill.
  They were being carbon-conscious,
she explained. They were using the
barbecue to feed dozens of people
instead of having them each cook
their own food.
  She should’ve known she was facing
a scrupulous group of environmental
ethicists with this crowd.
  Just as Wall Street is for stockbro-
kers, K Street for lobbyists, and Sand
Hill Road for tech investors, Stone
Pine Road in Half Moon Bay has
developed its own professional dis-
trict for environmental consultants.
  Whether they’re local start-ups,
splinter companies or branch offices,
the Coastside has sprouted a surpris-
ing number of consultancies leading
the nationwide green revolution. It’s
an area of business that politicians,
investors and the public consider key
to America’s future.
  Stepping inside to get away from
the chatter of the company barbecue,
RSG President Lauren Casentini says
Half Moon Bay isn’t yet the go-to
Mecca for environmentalism — but it
does have a lot going for it.
  “A lot of people are drawn to the
Coastside because they love the envi-
ronment, and usually they’re creative
with working that into their careers,”
she said in the company lobby.
  Local politicians have long debated
the merits of limited development
                                                                                a




and extensive nature preserves on the        Resource Solutions Group Program
Coastside. As they steer further away       Manager Chris Pilek brought an extra
from the local deep roots in agricul-        bicycle from his home to leave at the
                                           office for himself and his co-workers to
ture, Half Moon Bay and its sur-             use to run errands and pick up lunch
rounding communities are facing an              from their office in Half Moon Bay.
identity crisis. Despite the temptation
to turn the Coastside into a full-scale
bedroom community, the area has

                                                                                      Review Magazine | JUNE 2009   25
                                                                                                     Green
                                                                                                     economy
                                                                                                     looking
                                                                                                     good
                                                                                                     for future
                                                                                                       It’s not news that green busi-
                                                                                                     ness practices are thriving
                                                                                                     even in tough economic times.
                                                                                                     Since Half Moon Bay has a
                                                                                                     pool of environmental experts,
                                                                                                     the area could benefit from
                                                                                                     that convergence.
                                                                                                       Market research firm
                                                                                                     IBISWorld anticipated 10 per-
                                                                                                     cent growth for the green con-
                                                                                                     sulting industry for the cur-
                                                                                                     rent year, and signs indicate
                                                                                                     that estimate could be short of
                                                                                                     reality.
                                                                                                       After that market research
                                                                                                     was performed, President
                                                                                                     Barack Obama made the cre-
                                                                                                     ation of a green economy a
                                                                                                     pillar of his $700 billion eco-
                                                                                                     nomic stimulus plan, touting
                                                                                                     environmental jobs and indus-
                                                                                                     try as a solid investment for
                                                                                                     the future of the country.
                                                                                                       The federal government has
                                                                                                     already pledged tens of billion
                                                                                                     of dollars toward environmen-
                                                                                                     tal projects, though many
                                                                                                     details about exactly how the
                                                                                                     money will be spent are still
                                                                                   a




                            Project Associate Shannon Valenti at Resource Solutions                  being worked out. So far, $8
                            Group keeps magazines and other reference materials she                  billion has been allocated for a
                           gathered in completing her masters degree in energy policy                “smart” national energy grid,
                                                                 from John Hopkins.
                                                                                                     that would help monitor and
                                                                                                     conserve power; $800 million
                                                                                                     will be spent on biofuel
defined itself as a natural place, retaining its rural appeal in stark contrast to                   research and infrastructure;
the urban sprawl of the greater Bay Area.                                                            $750 million will go to reno-
  Casentini says that the Coastside’s natural beauty is a magnet for commit-                         vating and improving national
ted environmental professionals.                                                                     parks; $305 million will be
  “People want to walk their talk, and being here, they’re not just in a cubi-                       used for land restoration and
cle, they’re in the midst of the natural environment,” she said.                                     renewable energy projects; and
  RSG started as a splinter company from D&R International, a worldwide                              $93 million has been budgeted
efficiency company that often worked advising government agencies. In                                for wind energy.
2001, Casentini was tasked with starting a new Bay Area branch office for                              — Mark Noack
D&R International. She chose Half Moon Bay, despite strong pressure to
locate her office directly in San Francisco, the standard hub for all Northern
Californian environmentalism.

                                                                  Review Magazine | JUNE 2009   27
                                                                   a




                                                                   Resource Solutions Group employees celebrate their third anniversary
                                                                   with a barbecue for neighbors in their business park behind Stone Pine
                                                                   Center in Half Moon Bay..



   When Casentini and her three business partners were think-         To fill some roles, environmental companies tap the shoul-
ing about forming their own splinter company, staying in Half      der of smaller independent consultants on the Coastside.
Moon Bay emerged as the top choice. Two business partners             A former co-worker of many environmental consultants in
live nearby, and the area is a constant reminder of what           the area, Lynette Curthoys has contracted out her skill for
they’re working to achieve, according to Alison ten Cate.          years to many companies at Stone Pine Office Park.
   “The Coastside is beautiful and speaks to the type of com-         “A lot of these firms employ local workers and vendors,
pany that we are,” ten Cate said.                                  which keeps cars off (Highway) 92, while providing high-pay-
   But the executives at local environment companies say the       ing local professional jobs,” Curthoys said. “There are a num-
rural quality of the Coastside is a two-sided coin. While the      ber of one-person independent consultants like myself, which
natural surroundings act as a constant green reminder, it also     work with these local companies and others to do everything
hamstrings employee recruitment. Many avowed environ-              … to help build green energy projects.”
mentalists, it seems, prefer to live in the big city.                 In her own company, Casentini says that the water-cooler
   “That’s part of the tradeoff; people can be hard to attract,”   talk inevitably revolves around the green lifestyle and its ethi-
Casentini said.                                                    cal quandaries.
   Managers at other neighboring companies have also had              Diapers are a big topic, she said, particularly the debate
trouble drawing talent to Half Moon Bay.                           between reusable or disposable diapers. Which is more eco-
   “For better or worse, people view Half Moon Bay as isolat-      logically conscious? Vehicles are another debate point. Which
ed,” shrugged Janet Liver, a senior associate with TRC solu-       is cleaner, hybrids or biodiesel? And then there is the consis-
tions. While workers are harder to draw, managers say once         tent ethical struggle: What office supplies can be recycled?
they can convince a worker to come to the Coastside, they             Indeed, every day here feels like Earth Day. 1
rarely leave.

                                                                                                            Review Magazine | JUNE 2009   29

								
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