In a region more known for being the seat of the federal government and home to the Redskins, many companies are striving to be more innovative in developing technologies, solutions and best-practices that are environmentally sound, and conserve energy and resources.
The resulting emergence of companies increasingly focused on green IT and technology is starting to recast the region into a different mold – one of an incubator for businesses focused on renewable energy and more environmentally-sound technologies.
One company blazing the new trail is Power Loft. Nestled in Innovation Park in Prince William County, Virginia, Power Loft, a northern Virginia-based company that specializes in the development and ownership of high-density, high-security data centers, has built a facility that will not only allow for increased computing capacity, but uses 30% less electricity in the process.
In fact, Power Loft’s data center is expected to generate an annual environmental savings equivalent to 270,000 barrels of oil or enough electricity to power over 12,000 homes for one year.
“We wanted to do something different,” said James Coakley, Power Loft’s president and chief executive officer. “In every facility we’ve seen, the more you increased demand at the rack the more your non-IT and IT equipment compete for space, power and cooling.”
So, with that traditional data center challenge in mind, Coakley and his team set out to solve the scaling of IT systems and resources. Along the way they sought out best practices to reduce power demands from almost every industry imaginable, and worked to design a data center that is set to leave one of the best environmental footprints in the nation without sacrificing computing power.
In the end, Power Loft built a two-story complex that allows for high densities and incorporates numerous green technologies, from forced air cooling and water cooling, to state-of-the-art air ventilation systems and a green wall that scales the building to reduce the impact of outside temperatures. The design has garnered Power Loft numerous accolades, including the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Green Award.
Such an accomplishment sets a new standard in data center development certain to be studied and replicated throughout the country. But the fact that such an environmental trend-setter has come from the metro-DC area and not out in the west coast or in Europe has helped raised the profile of Washington, DC as an emerging leader in environmental technologies and practices.
“A lot of the early green movement is rooted in technology,” notes Art Stewart, President and Chief Strategy Officer at Stewart Strategies Group, a strategic consulting firm that helps companies hone their corporate and social responsibility policies.
“Now corporations include green technology as part of their overall strategy around corporate responsibility. Corporate responsibility is now the broad, connecting platform that ties green and other company initiatives together.”
Stewart sees the strong technology base in the metro-DC region as an excellent launching pad for more green technologies and environmental-friendly business practices.
“I do agree that in many instances technology is driving a new consciousness for green strategy, for sustainability strategy and for responsibility strategy,” Stewart said, pointing out that a few area technology companies are now developing software to help businesses better measure their carbon footprint and implement more sustainable office policies.
One of the regional leaders in developing green business practices for their corporate operations has been CSC. Headquartered in Falls Church, Va., CSC is a global leader in providing technology-enabled solutions and services, and was credited with implementing corporate-wide efforts to reduce energy use and recycle waste and technology during the NVTC TechCelebration banquet. CSC, like Power Loft, also won a Green Award and has been recognized in other journals for its efforts.
Turtle Wings is another company that is striving to shift the traditional paradigm of how companies do business. Based in Capitol Heights, MD, Turtle Wings is a woman-owned business that helps companies reuse and recycle their electronics hardware.
According to Elizabeth Wilmot, president of Turtle Wings, “Green technology encompasses a total life-cycle of all equipment.” She notes that a lot of companies talk about recycling computer equipment and hardware, but said it is important for businesses to be diligent in their recycling efforts to ensure that the materials turned over are going to go back “into circulation or recycle it here in the United States.”
In addition to the many companies that have focused on local markets, corporate-wide efforts or strategic planning, Catch the Wind, a high technology company headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, is carrying the Washington, DC mantle across the country and overseas.
A developer and manufacturer of laser based wind sensor systems that help guide wind turbines, Catch the Wind is focused on developing technology to serve the wind power generation industry – a market strategy that gives it quite a powerful reach throughout the world.
“There are more than 80,000 1 mega watt, or larger, turbines globally,” David Samuels, chief financial officer for Catch the Wind noted. Samuels added, “We are looking at retrofit right now on older turbines as well as installing new systems.”
Many other area companies also have received accolades for their development of green technologies, as noted by the wide range of finalists in NVTC’s recent Green Awards.
As businesses recover from the current recession, all indicators are that technology, and more specifically – green technologies – are going to help lead the way. With a growing tech surge in the metropolitan Washington, DC region, this should mean more area businesses will end up growing green.
The growth of online classifieds has continued, even though online spending has diminished with the recession and bad press has plagued some online classified sites, like Craigslist. I had a chance to interview Greg Collier, CEO of Geebo, about how his company has fared over the last several months, his view of the industry and where Geebo is headed in the future.
For people who are not familiar with Geebo. What is Geebo?
Geebo is classified ads format with everything from roommates and real estate to jobs. It is a site that was developed in late 1999 when the company was located in Sacramento, CA, and was designed to compete against the local town newspaper – The Sacramento Bee. We felt they were doing a so-so job in presentation, layout and navigation, and we thought that we could create a better online classifieds community. Today, the company is based in McLean, VA and I am proud to say that we have grown and are now in 143 communities in the United States.
What makes you different from other online classified companies in the digital media space?
One way we are different is that all our job postings are syndicated, which means if you post a job on Geebo they will get picked up by SimplyHired, Indeed, Tweet Mart, TwitterJobSearch.com, Google Base, Hispanic-jobs.com and several others. We did this to benefit our advertisers, and to help increase their exposure and grow the demographics their job posts reach.
Since Geebo has been around for about ten years now, competing against newspapers, Craigslist and others, how have you seen online classifieds evolve?
It’s been an interesting time. When we came on the scene, there was really nobody else out there other than the newspapers and a handful of online operators. We did not even know about Craigslist for the first few months. At the time we started, Craigslist was still exclusively in San Francisco. Newspapers were very limited in their online presentation of classifieds. In most cases, you could not contact someone who posted on a newspaper by email – you had a call a phone number. But until online classified communities like Geebo and Cragislist came around, newspapers had no real competition. The web changed all that. The cost of doing business online is lower, and with the expansion of internet use – there is a lot more opportunity and a lot more competition.
Speaking to the growing use of the Internet, the expansion of broadband access and computer access has provided a lot of value. However, there are some growing challenges facing online communities, including the rise in criminal activity online. This has created a growing interest among users of online classifieds in safety. Does Geebo take any particular steps to ensure greater safety for people who use your online classifieds?
You are absolutely right, unfortunately, about there being some bad people out there using online classifieds. These things are out there, and it’s been going on for a while. We have been watching this trend. A few years ago we considered implementing an adult service section, but asked ourselves, “What comes along with that?” We quickly decided that was not a direction we wanted to go in. So, we’ve kept adult content off Geebo. We also do not have a rants and raves section, because that has opened the door to a lot of hate speech and other challenges. But no site is immune to people making scandalous or harmful posts. So, we’ve developed some safeguards. In certain sections of the site, a person on our team reviews the content before it is posted. We also block IP addresses from repeat offenders. No system is full-proof, but we think these controls definitely give us a safer environment.
You’re a small company, but part of your corporate mission is to give back to the communities you reach. What does Geebo do in terms of community service?
Well, that is part of the business I am most proud of and enjoy. This past September we helped co-sponsor the National Press Club’s 5k run. We’ve donated programming services, for example, to OneBrick.org, which promotes volunteerism. We’ve donated job postings to non-profits. In fact, all non-profits are able to post jobs free of charge, they just need to contact us and we can set that up. We’ve been involved in Sierra Adoption Services, The Child and Family Institute and the Mustard Seed School. Also, after Hurricane Katrina we helped restaurants that were struggling to hire people to reach out through out network to help fill urgent vacancies. We hope to be able to much more, and more on a larger scale as time goes – as the business and revenues grow.
You mention revenues. No one has been immune from the economic conditions that continue to make it struggle for businesses. Unemployment is up past 10%. What has the economic downturn done to a company like Geebo? And the industry as a whole?
Well, our income is down 25% from the same time last year. I’ve spoke to many business owners who are struggling. While I am not pleased, I’ve heard other businesses are suffering even greater losses. Newspapers and other companies are cutting 8% and 10% of their staff. We have not had to go that far, so we are fortunate in that respect. Clearly, the economy is not rebounding as quickly as we would like and this will impact advertising and hiring well in the future, not just for Geebo, but for everyone. To combat this to a degree, we are expanding the reach of our job postings to give our advertisers as much bang for the buck as possible.
Even though the economy is not recovering as fast as we all would like, it will recover at some point. What does Geebo have planned for the future? And what do you see for the industry going forward?
I think content sharing will expand and classified sites will get better in their design, connecting the content they provide to social media outlets, through mobile technology and other mediums. For Geebo, we are working on some media partnerships where Geebo will power media company classifieds. We will tap into Twitter more as well so more people see the jobs that come from Geebo. We also are going to implement a more SEO-friendly website in the near future.
Listen to the full interview which will be aired on The Mike Hackmer Radio Show, Sunday, November 15th at 12:00 pm, Eastern. To hear to program, go to: https://www.hackmer.com/live.htm