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WMU to use federal money to help companies go 'green'

Date: October 20, 2009 Section: General News


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KALAMAZOO -- WesternMichiganUniversity experts in engineering, business and other disciplines will be paired with manufacturers looking for environmentally friendly ways to produce, design and deliver their products using $1 million in newly announced federal funding.

"Companies realize that being green or being sustainable is good for their bottom line to ensure their longevity," said John Patten, a WMUmanufacturing engineering professor and leader of the project.

The project was formally announced Monday at a press conference held by WMU officials and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.

The $1 million is part of $88.6 million in energy-and-water funding poised for the state of Michigan. The appropriations bill containing the funding was passed this month by the House and the Senate.

"I'm told the president is expected to sign the bill into law perhaps as early as this week," Upton said.

Patten cited energy conservation and establishing recycling processes as among the practices WMU professors would help businesses develop.

"We'll be working with manufacturing companies in greening their processes, greening their design, looking at green materials," he said.

Patten said they have about 25 companies from across West Michigan that are interested in working with the university on the project.

Of the money earmarked for Michigan, about $24 million is for energy research and creating advanced energy technology.

"As we look at particularly the downturn that our state is experiencing (with) 15 percent unemployment, we have to look to be more diverse," Upton said. "One of the niches that I think that can ... put us in a much better position is to look at green technology."

The federal dollars are intended to help finance individual projects such as helping companies develop ways to make their facilities more energy-efficient or cut waste in production.

The manufacturers would work with university researchers and students in areas such as environmental studies, chemistry, business and engineering.

"Certainly we want to build an expertise and capability around this effort at Western," Patten said.

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