been known as the glass capital of the world. She reviewed some major Toledo companies that had succeeded in leading the glass industry, including Libby Owens Ford (now Pilkington), Johns Manville, Owens Illinois, and Libbey, Inc. These companies were supported by the region’s silica and lime reserves, and by glass physics research and generations of business leaders. Glass expertise, she said, had led to a range of skills around solar energy, including solar energy building materials, heat shields, and fiber optics.
Her own interest in renewable energy began long ago, she said, and gained depth when she served as White House policy advisor to President Jimmy Carter. “I lived the oil embargo of the late 1970s,” she said, “and we all saw what it did to our country. It was the first slap in the face, really hard, and it knocked our teeth out.” She recalled President Carter’s message that what we endured was the “moral equivalent of war, and he remains right to this day. But the nation forgot his message.”
She worked as a city and regional planner for almost two decades before running for Congress in the early 1980s. She said she was always interested in sustainability, at every level, and in building on natural assets. In the 1980s, the unemployment in her region was higher than she had ever seen it, and she realized she wanted to represent those in her community who were “up against the wall. I had to be their voice,” she said, “and that’s what motivated me to run.”
“WOW, THEY CAN DO IT HERE”
During the Reagan administration, Congresswoman Kaptur said, federal support for photovoltaic research and alternative energy was substantially diminished, but in her congressional activities, she tried to promote photovoltaics and the research needed to make it more efficient. She recalled meeting Dr. Harold McMaster, who invited her out to a university laboratory to show her a vacuum chamber. He was about to build some of the first films for a company that has become First Solar. She was drawn to his enthusiasm immediately, and watched closely the companies he founded, which, she said, “all made money.” She recalled a time when a car company charged him with building an especially difficult window. “I thought, ‘You’ll never be able to build it, it will crack.’ On the day when the first rear window came off the line, it didn’t crack. We all went, ‘Wow, they can do it here.’”
“I watched this gentleman who loved our community,” she said—“a great philanthropist. He and his colleagues invested in our local school system, gave millions of dollars to our university, knew what it was to build a community and a country. They respected one another and they knew they had to move America forward. I remember their boundless vision to produce a new generation of research and innovation for our country. They were both scientists and entrepreneurs at the same time, and they never quit innovating.”
Congresswoman Kaptur gave Dr. McMaster and others full credit for “doing so much when America was asleep.” In 2007 the Economist magazine described Toledo as one of the six places on earth with real strength in new solar-powered