Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato’s environmental epiphany occurred where you might think an accountant’s would: on the bottom line.

Today Mr. Onorato hosted a morning-long meeting, “Growing a Greener Economy,” designed to emphasize links between the environment and the local economy and highlight opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses in the region.

He told the gathering of about 300 people at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip that the county will spend the $8.1 million federal stimulus grant it received on energy efficiency projects and workforce training to better position the region for a future “green” economy.

“There is a new manufacturing and environmental movement in the country and we want to be at the center of it,” Mr. Onorato said. “It can be good for the economy and good for the environment and can drive the region’s economic growth for the next 50 years.”

As an example, Mr. Onorato cited the county’s recently completed replacement of 805 incandescent lights and fixtures with energy efficient LED lights at the county jail. The replacement cost the county $950,000, but the new lighting, which is on 24-hours a day in the jail’s central “pod” areas, will use 83 percent less electricity, saving the county $178,000 a year. The county will realize additional savings because the new LED lights will last 20 to 25 years instead of the one year life span of the old incandescent bulbs.

Another benefit of the lighting project, Mr. Onorato said, is its use of LED fixtures manufactured by Appalachian Lighting Systems in Ellwood City, Lawrence County, which uses mostly American made components.

The meeting featured a series of panels on energy and manufacturing jobs, green building and infrastructure and green entrepreneurship that were populated by small business leaders, established industries, entrepreneurs, financing interests, organized labor, green building advocates, alternative energy companies and government officials.