4 minutes with… Michele Jalbert, Chief Operating Officer, Renewable Chemicals & Advanced Materials Alliance

March 16, 2015 |

3acbf3bTell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Re:chem is an exceptionally nimble alliance of elite renewable chemical companies led by its passionate advocate, Corinne Young. We advance federal policies laser-focused on the discrete needs of this bioeconomy sub-set. We’ve been described as a “swift boat” operating among the many battleships in DC competing for policymakers time and attention

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

As Chief Operating Officer of re:chem, I enjoy the chance to work with a diverse group of really interesting companies at different stages of development. We are constantly collaborating – with NGOs, other trade groups, state partners — it is one of the aspects I most enjoy about the work.

We have three clear policy priorities informing our work over the next year: 1) ensure USDA loan guarantees for fast-tracking renewable chemicals are implemented per Congressional intent under last year’s Farm Bill changes 2) enact a renewable chemical production tax credit and 3) working for programmatic and regulatory parity for renewable chemicals at agencies like EPA, DOE and USDA. As you can see, these are “non-dilutive” priorities, unencumbered by other stakeholder interests, which is why re:chem is so effective in driving the renewable chemical sector’s policy agenda.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

US policymakers must move quickly to ensure renewable chemical sector stays and develops here, as a vital economic driver. Other countries readily grasp the sector’s promise and are aggressively courting our best and brightest. So, re:chem is relentlessly focused on delivering access to capital & speed to market to drive U.S. commercialization.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

It would be to make government policy smarter and better able to catalyze the most promising areas of the bioeconomy quickly. There is so much happening so rapidly, and government policy tends to lag and stall, when it cannot distinguish between true economic opportunity and unrealistic ideas.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

Over last decade, have worked on various advanced manufacturing policy issues and was electrified by the promise of the renewable chemical sector. I believe it has the potential to transform a significant part of the U.S. economy, launching new technologies, on-shoring jobs and providing diverse opportunity for the country’s agricultural base.

Where are you from? 

An Army brat, I was born in New York, but moved a lot.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?

History major at Bates College, probably chosen because it blends aspects of so many other disciplines. Later, law school, which really honed my thought processes and communication style. Strongly influenced by the alternative dispute resolution movement, and trained as a mediator, not the more adversarial paths available to newly minted attorneys.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

My parents, from whom I think I learned everything important that I know. My sister, who has faced significant health challenges most of her life with grace and resilience, and helps guide the next generation in her role as high school teacher. I could not have been blessed with a more wonderful family.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

To know, that no matter what happens, you can always rebound. I often say being laid off 15 years ago was the best thing that ever happened to me — I ended up on Capitol Hill, discovered the intoxicating sense of helping bring about change in the world and never looked back. I learned that possibilities await around every corner, you just have to be alert and open to them.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?  

My precocious Friesian horse keeps me on my toes. Someday she may be the foundation mare of a farm dedicated to breeding these horses. When I am not in DC or traveling for client work, I am happily ensconced in an historic grange (c. 1870s) with several artists, where I sell biobased and organic products in small shop. Think global, act local!

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?  

I love Europe. As a second-generation army brat, I grew up with countless stories about countries that I have since had the privilege of visiting.

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