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JMU shines at White House energy forum

"It is my distinct honor to introduce the President of the United States."
By Martha Graham

President Barack Obama shares the podium with MIT's Susan Hockfield and Paul Holland of Serious Materials during the President's remarks on investments in clean energy and new technology

President Barack Obama shares the podium with MIT's Susan Hockfield and Paul Holland of Serious Materials during the President's remarks on investments in clean energy and new technology.

Photo: The White House/Lawrence Jackson

In March 2009, Paul Holland ('82) and Dennis Tracz ('78) participated in the "Investing in the Clean Energy Economy" event at the White House, during which President Obama announced a $150 billion investment over 10 years in funding for green business and alternative energy. The event drew more than 100 energy, entrepreneur and academic leaders from all over the country.

Before introducing the president, Holland, a partner in Foundation Capital in Menlo Park, Calif., said, that "business provides over two-thirds of the research and development funding in this country today and the federal research and development tax credit is a crucial tool for business." He said the input of federal dollars, such as the federal research and tax credit and the new stimulus bill, is critical to the nation's energy future. "Simply put," he said, "American businesses ... would be at a major disadvantage in the business global arena without the federal R and D tax credit."

Leadership role in creating new energy technologies

Holland sits on the board of Serious Materials, the leading energy-saving building materials company in the U.S. and a company cited by the president for taking a leadership role in creating new energy technologies. According to the company's Web site, Serious Materials products exceed four fold the current Energy Star window standards and thus reduce heating and cooling costs up to 50 percent.

Lauding the company, Obama said, "Serious Materials just reopened a manufacturing plant outside of Pittsburgh. Last year, that factory was shuttered and more than one hundred jobs were lost. The town was devastated. Today, that factory is whirring back to life, and Serious Materials is rehiring the folks who lost their jobs. And these workers will now have a new mission: producing some of the most energy-efficient windows in the world."

The president cited Serious Materials in pursuing energy solutions and at the same time producing jobs. "Small businesses are innovative business, producing 13 times more patents per employee than large companies," Obama said.

"Over the last 30 years," the president went on to say, "venture capitalist-funded companies ... have employed tens of thousands of Americans in high paying and renewable jobs."

Dennis Tracz ('78) (center) participated in the Investing in the Clean Energy Economy eventDennis Tracz ('78) (center) participated in the "Investing in the Clean Energy Economy" event. Photo: The White House / Lawrence Jackson

JMU students on top of green and sustainability issues

Dennis Tracz, one of a handful of presenters during a discussion period, told the audience that JMU's students are on top of green and sustainability issues. Tracz cited one of this year's business competition teams. The team developed an anaerobic digester, which uses cow manure, to produce enough energy to cool milk produced in a dairy co-op run by women in western Kenya. Until the student's innovation, the dairywomen had to throw out extra milk, lacking any refrigeration facilities. Tracz, who served as mentor for the project, is JMU's director of stakeholder relations, an entrepreneur and former CEO of Leapfrog-XML Inc.

Holland and Tracz' appearance at the White House event came on the heels of another recent energy conference. Both attended the invitation-only conference on sustainability held by the Wall Street Journal. The invitation-only event included former vice president Al Gore and Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic.

Both Holland and Tracz serve on JMU's College of Business Executive Advisory Council.