I started my academic career at the University of Chicago where I hoped to become a scientist. It wasn’t long before I traded in my Petri dish for a life focus on public policy. After more than two decades of community economic development, grassroots, grasstops and coalition building, I find myself pondering the policy debate surrounding energy independence. A cornerstone of national security is energy independence and the sooner we reduce our dependence on foreign oil the better. As a policy wonk, I wonder how we lost our way.
In 1989, then President George Herbert Walker Bush, asked me to be the National Director of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the U.S. Small Business Administration. Designing a public policy framework that would create economic development to support and promote women entrepreneurs was an exciting challenge. Entrepreneurs, trying to bring new ideas, services and products to market need access to financing, affordable health care, equal access to markets and an infrastructure capable of delivering reliable energy at an affordable price. Health care, financing, trade, energy? None has the benefit of a comprehensive framework today. But in each case we have to ask ourselves, how can we generate jobs, if we can’t generate electricity needed to fuel job growth?
How do we solve this problem? Some want clean coal, or biomass, or small nuclear, or solar, but frankly we need them all. Wanting to do my part for energy independence, I co-founded PermittingPartners with my good friend of many years, Lee Khan. Leading up to the creation of PermittingPartners, I worked for more than a decade on industrial, energy, and mining economic development projects. And every project faced the fact that everything is in somebody’s backyard. Wherever the resources are, there will also be the challenge of bringing together competing interests to make them viable. PermittingPartners is there to help get to “yes.”
I am a committed environmentalist, member of the National Parks Conservation Association, the Green Mountain Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, a dedicated hiker and live by the reuse, recycle, repair motto of my grandparents. I am deeply influenced by my eleven-year-old son, Ian, who never runs out of energy. He would trade anything to play in a stream, pond or lake and is constantly questioning everything from the position of the moon to the best type of locomotive for the future of train travel. I have an MBA from Harvard where I learned to play ice hockey. I am still playing hockey – and now my son joins me for neighborhood “pond hockey” – in Cincinnati where I live with my husband, John Suddarth, Ian and our dog Noosh.