A NEW INDUSTRY
There’s a dirty secret behind
denim: the toxic, resource-intensive process that creates
the synthetic indigo color used
by most manufacturers. Sarah
Bellos’s quest to overhaul this
part of denim manufacturing
with her five-year-old natural-dye processor, Stony Creek
Colors, led her to Robertson
County, a former tobacco-farming stronghold in Tennessee. With tobacco in retreat,
Bellos offers farmers an alternative: Grow the indigo plants
that Stony Creek Colors uses
to produce its blue dye. “We
bring high-value crops to farmers,” she says, “while changing
their practices to be more sustainable.” Her indigo is used in
high-end jeans from brands
such as J.Crew and Nudie.
After opening a new plant
(in a former tobacco processor), Bellos is scaling production and signing more farmers
and clothing brands. But indigo is just the first step. Stony
Creek is creating an entire
palette of colors, all made in
Tennessee and Kentucky, from
either high-yield crops that
Bellos breeds or agricultural
waste from industries such as
sawmills. “We’re applying the
principles of plant breeding
and chemical engineering to
replace the insane use of
textile dyes across the industry,” Bellos says.
A HEALTHIER HEALTH CARE MODEL
Beginning this year, Vermont is phasing out the traditional “fee for service”
system of health care with a “pay for
performance” model that aims to
reduce unnecessary tests and expenses
by reimbursing medical practitioners
based on their overall care of a patient.
Vermont hopes to transition the entire
state to the plan by 2022.
A PLATFORM TO BREAK ADDICTION
Sioux Falls’s Face It Together is battling drug and alcohol abuse with a
portfolio of data-driven tech products
that enable heath care providers to
offer more holistic, long-term solutions
and help communities better focus their
public-health resources. The organization’s technology, piloted in South
Dakota, is now being used in four states.
A GREEN CIT Y IN A RED S TATE
After announcing plans in 2015 to
move to 100% renewables, the 60,000-
person city of Georgetown is on track to
achieve its goal. Next year, its municipal-ity-owned utilities will become one of the
largest to supply customers exclusively
with solar and wind power. And fixed-rate contracts mean that what’s great for
the environment is also smart business.
AN ENTREPRENEURIAL DORM
Last August, the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah,
Salt Lake City, unveiled a 400-person
dorm that functions like an incubator.
Open to students of any major, the
building is housing meets work space:
It supports aspiring entrepreneurs with
workshops, lectures, networking events,
and business-plan competitions.
A WATER SENSOR THAT CAN SEE
Hiring experts to regularly measure the health of a well is
expensive but important: Millions of Americans depend on
well water. Wellntel, founded in Milwaukee, makes a series of solar-powered sensors that turns any well into a
smart one, allowing owners to check on current levels and
recovery time (how long it takes a well to refill after pumping) via an app. It also aggregates long-term data on a
well’s water levels and can compare its performance to
neighboring wells—information that’s especially useful for
people in drought-weary states who can’t rely on rainwater.
Cofounder Nicholas Hayes says the tracker and data-sharing
system compiles more groundwater information than
government agencies do. After taking orders from customers in 26 states, he’s planning an international expansion.
“We developed a system that puts the information in the
hands of the people who use it,” he says.
U.S. OF INNOVATION: A State-by-State Guide