Innovation — a business model we can believe in.

McKinstry Company is perhaps the most dynamic and interesting company in the Northwest right now. They’re earning high-profile attention from President Barack Obama. And even in this economy, they’re adding jobs and expanding.

Check it out:

SEATTLE — Mayor Greg Nickels today presented McKinstry Company with a permit and approved plans for an expansion of its Georgetown facility in south Seattle. The company expects to hire an additional 500 people, a combination of professional and union craftsman, in the next two to three years.

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But how can anyone prosper right now?

Well, a big part of the reason for McKinstry’s success is that they get it. They get that the current energy economy is broken. They get that we’re facing a climate crisis of alarming severity. And they get that a state like Washington shoveled $16 billion out the door in 2008 to pay for fossil-fuel imports.

Consider what David Allen of McKinstry Company said yesterday to the Washington legislature. In testimony before the House Ecology and Parks Committee, he fielded a hostile question about some businesses objecting to the governor’s cap-and-invest bill. (Video is here, starting at about 43:15.)

Allen said flatly that McKinstry will be regulated. But he doesn’t fear putting a cap on climate pollution.

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Allen: "We need to suck it up and get innovative."

No wonder the president considers them a model for the nation. That’s what the American economy was built on — ingenuity and adaptability. And if we’re to prosper in tough economic times — an era darkened by a looming energy-climate threat — that’s precisely the spirit we’ll need.

Not only does McKinstry has the right outlook to succeed, but they’re succeeding by solving problems for everyone else. With retrofits and efficiency upgrades, they’re saving money for the public and private sectors, and they’re keeping energy spending local.

From the city’s press release yesterday:

“One of our goals is to create new green collar jobs for those working to make our homes, offices and industry more energy efficient. McKinstry’s expansion illustrates there are many opportunities ahead in the new economy,” said Nickels. “This is just one example of ways Seattle supports local businesses and encourages family-wage jobs across all industries.”

With the permit issued today, McKinstry will develop 120,000 square feet of its property into additional office and manufacturing logistics space, as well as parking. The company’s future expansion plans include developing an additional 20,000 square feet for training center and offices to the south, and redeveloping the current parking area of 50,000 square feet into additional logistics support space.

More here.

I especially like the McKinstry story because a number of folks have pointed out to me this recent New York Times article,"Dark Days For Green Energy." The upshot of the story is that a number of renewable energy firms, especially those that do wind and solar installations, are suffering the effects of the broader economic downturn and the paralyzed capital markets. Because they rely on bank financing like most expansion industries, the green energy companies in the same pickle as everyone else.

Sure. That’s fine. But let’s also keep in mind that green energy development is ripe for smart economic stimulus. And even better, maybe, is the work that McKinstry does: putting people to work in high-wage jobs to reduce energy consumption and save money for businesses.

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