In the early 20th century, Milwaukee was known as the “Machine Shop of the World,” while simultaneously enjoying a long run as the “Beer Capital of the World.” But these nicknames are long out of date, and Milwaukee has been casting about for a post-industrial identity. In the 1990s, “City of Festivals” was tried. Recently, however, Milwaukee has developed a 21st-century industrial identity as the “Water Capital of the World.” Almost overnight, it has become a go-to destination for companies and countries that want to solve their water problems.
Since 2013, delegations from 74 countries have visited the Global Water Center (GWC) at 247 W. Freshwater Way (formerly West Pittsburgh Avenue). The Water Council’s Global Water Center has been instrumental in bringing together regional companies old and new that are producing 21st-century water technologies. It also is encouraging cutting-edge water research that Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee are conducting, as well as supporting an incubator program for start-ups.
David Garman, chief technology officer for The Water Council and associate vice chancellor for water technology, research and development at UWM, says the cluster of water technology companies in Milwaukee is probably the biggest in the world. “You can go around the world, and it’s hard to find anything comparable,” he says.
In 2014, the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has long collected history as it unfolds, opened a field office at the GWC. “In 2014, when we saw that the Water Council was gaining momentum and looked at the work that the Water Council was doing, we really felt it could be historic for the City of Milwaukee and far beyond to the state and nationally,” says Kristen Leffelman, field services representative for the society. (Leffelman is archiving documents and taking oral histories from the founders of the Water Council and from GWC tenants.) “The work of trying to build a global water hub was and continues to be something that Milwaukee hasn’t seen before,” she says. “Whether or not that effort ultimately succeeds, the City of Milwaukee has seen a lot of growth from this, particularly in Walker’s Point. The Global Water Center was one of the first buildings to be repurposed in Walker’s Point; the area is really blooming around it.”
Read the full story by The Shepherd Express