December 9th marked the final Quarterly Member Meeting of 2015! The afternoon included an introduction to the newly launched Water Council website, remarks from Rockwell leadership, and an in-depth panel discussion examining the impact of water technology in the city, specifically in the Water Technology District located within the Historic Walker’s Point neighborhood. Thank you to Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee, WI for hosting us, and providing one of the most breath-taking views of the Milwaukee skyline from your iconic Clock Tower.
Rockwell Automation’s Milwaukee headquarters was the site of our final Quarterly Member meeting of 2015, located just a few blocks away from the Global Water Center, and in the southern edge of the Water Technology District, which would be the topic of the day for the keynote panel discussion later. Michael Laszkiewicz, VP & GM for Rockwell’s Power Control Business provided brief welcoming remarks to the group, which set an attendance record for quarterly meetings. Michael discussed Rockwell’s long-history in the community, and how through innovation, the company was able to evolve and maintain it’s global competitiveness over the past 112 years.
KEYNOTE PANEL: MILWAUKEE’s FRESHWATER FUTURE IS HERE – WHAT IS THE WATER TECHNOLOGY DISTRICT AND HOW WILL IT CONTINUE TO DEFINE THE WALKER’S POINT NEIGHBORHOOD?
The main presentation of the evening focused on the newly identified Water Technology District within Milwaukee’s Historic Walker’s Point neighborhood. The Water Technology District is bordered by Greenfield Avenue to the South, Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor to the East, Interstate 43/94 to the West, and the Menomonee River canal to the North. The District was the subject of an economic investment analysis performed by UW-Milwaukee, The Water Council and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), respectively, which found that since 2010 over $211 million in public and private investment has flowed into the District. See that report HERE.
The momentum behind Milwaukee’s Water Technology District, and Wisconsin’s Water Technology Cluster has been growing significantly over the last few years, thanks to the efforts of The Water Council, their Member and Partner network and the public/private partnership that has supported the forward development of the water cluster,’ said Lee Swindall, VP of Business & Industry Development, WEDC, who served as moderator of the panel. This sentiment seemed to be echoed by all the panelists, consisting of Craig Wehr, President, Zurn Industries, LLC, Rocky Marcoux, Commissioner, City of Milwaukee, Linda Gorens-Levy, Partner, General Capital Group, Rich Meeusen, President/CEO/Chairman, Badger Meter, and Joe Klein, Principal, HKS Holdings, LLC.
Select questions and answers from the panel discussion:
‘What types of companies are being recruited for Reed Street Yards (RSY) global water technology business park?’
General Capital, the company developing the RSY site, has an agreement in place with the city that in order to receiving funding for site remediation and preparation for development that 70% of the space must be reserved for water-related businesses. A key point made by Linda, was that they are looking at water companies in a much broader sense, beyond traditional companies like Zurn or A. O. Smith. They are pursuing companies similar to a GE or Nestle, big name companies that have water as a component of their operations.
Another popular idea was utilizing street-level space at RSY for retail and other commercial uses aside from office space, to activate the area. Perhaps a waterfront brew pub is in order, according to Meeusen.
In 2016, Zurn will move 150 employees to Milwaukee from Erie, PA, what influenced that decision, and what will future employees want to see in the District?
Zurn’s decision to relocate to Milwaukee was influenced by many things, according to President, Craig Wehr. He continued that The Water Council and the access to talent and new innovations coming out of the region were obvious factors. Additionally, incentives provided by the state of Wisconsin and by the city of Milwaukee made the move even more attractive. Finally, he stated that Zurn was at a point that they wanted a “showpiece destination” to bring clients to, and being a part of the District and having a new world-class facility was the nail in the coffin.
In regards to the needs and desires of future talent, he noted that the District has the following that will be ideal in attracting new talent:
What’s missing in the District?
The lack of more global headquarters like Rexnord, Zurn and Rockwell, was Joe Klein’s response. He continued that the District needs more of these larger corporations to buy into the idea of locating within the District, once they do, more will follow; simply put, “Density creates more density,” a sentiment that was echoed by the other panelists.
Another key issue was connectivity between the overall District and Reed Street Yards which sits at the northern edge along the Menomonee River. The site is cut-off from the rest of the District to the South by an active railroad line, to the West by the 6th Street Bridge and to the North by the river. It currently has one point of access, Freshwater Way, the new city street that bisects the site.
City Commissioner Rocky Marcoux quickly chimed in that plans are already underway to better connect RSY to the rest of the neighborhood. This includes a new pedestrian connection over the railroad from a public space on the South, future pedestrian bridges over the river to connect to the Harley Davidson Museum and other high-profile redeveloped properties. Already in place are bike and pedestrian connections to the 6th Street Bridge and a rail underpass that will be re-imagined to make it more welcoming.
In 10-20 years, where do you see the District and The Water Council?
The interconnectivity of the District to the city grid and the region will be huge, and add to the value and attractiveness of the area, was one sentiment. Another agreed upon vision was that Reed Street Yards will be fully built-out, with headquarters from several global businesses, solidifying the region as a global freshwater leader. Also, the region will become a talent magnet, with Millennials making up 40% of the workforce within the District. Finally, Milwaukee’s Water Technology District will be a destination for water technology, much like Silicon Valley is for software technology.
In regards to The Water Council, it already is an international player, but in the future that role will be much more elevated as The Council increases opportunities for the region, cluster and Members to connect to those international markets. Also envisioned by Rich, is The Council will form an Advocacy Committee for water technology policy locally, regionally, and nationally.
The amount of activity in Milwaukee’s Water Technology District is moving at a fever-pitch, and shows no signs of slowing down with many projects already underway, or planned for the very near future (Global Water Center II, Water Tech One). It is needless to say, but the landscape that we see before us today, will look dramatically different in years to come, as Milwaukee continues as the leading water technology cluster in the United States.
A FRESH NEW LOOK
Meghan Jensen, Director of Marketing & Membership, enthusiastically introduced attendees to the new look of The Water Council website. Over the past nine months The Water Council has worked with Nelson Schmidt to create, design, and brand the new website to be more reflective of The Council’s mission, expansive programming, and most importantly our network of water technology experts and innovators.
The new site is packed with brand new features meant to improve the user experience and provide the most up-to-date information regarding our robust Member and Partner network. Some new features include:
The phase of the website in early 2016 will include an interactive cluster map, Member logos in the directory, and more!
What would a Q4 Member Meeting be if we didn’t recognize the birthday of Founding Member, and Board Co-Chair, Rich Meeusen. Happy Birthday Rich, and thank you for your service and unwavering support of The Water Council over the years!
A huge thank you to Rockwell Automation for hosting another successful Quarterly Meeting! Save the date for our 2016 Q1 Member Meeting, February 17, more details to come!
Click here for the full slide presentation.
Interested in joining The Water Council? Please contact Isaiah Perez, Member Services & Development Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org