Before an ambulance rushed him last summer to an intensive care unit, where a neurologist diagnosed a full-blown stroke, Rich Meeusen was unable to walk without tipping and falling. The left side of his body abruptly had become numb and partially paralyzed.

“It was the first time in my life that I found myself leaning left,” quips the Badger Meter Inc. chief executive.

Those who know Meeusen sigh and say they’ve heard that one before, even if Meeusen concedes he was frightened at the time. The one-liner has joined a repertoire of anecdotes, jokes, homespun economics and brash opinions from a lifelong Milwaukeean who is widely credited with leading one of the city’s liveliest economic renewal strategies in memory.

His idea is simple: A fluke of industrial history has endowed the metro region with a stable of water-engineering companies that are ripe for new investment and jobs. Water almost everywhere is becoming increasingly scarce, polluted and pricier, creating fresh opportunities in the $425 billion-a-year global market for water infrastructure as well as a chance to refashion the region’s image as a global hub of water technology and research.

View the full story by theĀ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel