Collaboration is key at weftec 2021

By Dean Amhaus, President & CEO

WEFTEC is a highlight of The Water Council’s year, and though the event looked different in 2021, that fact didn’t change. The Water Council has a strong presence at this year’s event in Chicago, co-sponsoring the Global Center with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation on behalf of the state of Wisconsin.

But our representatives didn’t stay put at the Global Stage. The “teal shirt crew” has been visible all over the exhibition, meeting with members, partners and other potential connections. Although attendance is about half of previous years, the energy and enthusiasm remain high. As Barry Liner of the Water Environment Federation said, “Everyone who is here really wants to be here.” We enjoyed meeting members of our BREW 2.0 Post-Accelerator cohort whom we’d only ever talked to online before. We talked to companies eager to connect to our global network and suite of innovation programming, and I’d be surprised if we don’t add a few new members after this week.

It’s been a newsy week. Monday, we announced a renewal of our memorandum of understanding with the Catalan Water Partnership in Catalonia, Spain. That afternoon we discussed the joint venture we helped establish between SIGMA DAF Clarifiers, a Catalan company, and Clearwater Industries in Milwaukee. This is just one example of our growing international reach.

On Tuesday, we announced new partners for our BREW 2.0 Post-Accelerator. Karen Frost, our vice president of economic development and innovation, shared information Tuesday about BREW and the Tech Challenge in a session at the Innovation Pavilion. Simultaneously, I led a session about ESG (environmental, social and governance reporting) and water stewardship on another stage.

One of our best attended sessions discussed leveraging the EU Techbridge in U.S. projects with Kevin Shafer of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District and Harro Brons of the Water Alliance in the Netherlands, illustrating once again the interest in international collaboration. Kevin offered perhaps one of my favorite quotes of the conference, when discussing how utilities and water tech companies can take advantage of innovative opportunities: “You call Karen or you call Dean.”

We’re not done yet. On Wednesday, we will escort representatives from companies located in the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Japan from Chicago to Milwaukee for a business development event. Participants will learn about Milwaukee’s world water hub and how The Water Council can help them grow their U.S. networks and operations. WEFTEC might be done after this week, but the collaboration continues.