Foxconn Technology Group’s interest in southeastern Wisconsin, where the Asian electronics manufacturer is considering building a multibillion-dollar industrial campus, underscores an often-overlooked economic advantage for a region burdened with a Rust Belt image:

It has abundant access to water, an increasingly scarce commodity that analysts say is used in prodigious amounts in making the flat-panel displays that the new plant would likely produce.

Racine County and Kenosha County are nestled up against the Lake Michigan shoreline and boast a nearly inexhaustible supply of fresh water, at a time when parts of California, Arizona and Nevada as well as China, India, Singapore and Brazil have been forced to resort to water-use restrictions.

While declining to discuss the Foxconn situation directly, Edward St. Peter, the general manager of the Kenosha Water Utility, says he never tires of boasting that the Great Lakes comprise 25% of the world’s surface supply of fresh water. He can stare out of his office window at Lake Michigan.

“I brag all the time that we have an economic advantage,” St. Peter said.

Many economists as well as Milwaukee-area civic leaders argue that regions with reliable water access stand to benefit as the world’s supplies become ever more polluted and scarce.

“The Great Lakes have the potential to be fit for the water-intensive industries of the 21st century,” said Seth M. Siegel, an entrepreneur who advises global water organizations and is a senior fellow at the Center for Water Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Read the full story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel