MILWAUKEE, Sept. 30 – U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet announced today that The Water Council has been selected as one of four new Regional Innovation Cluster awardees, adding to its portfolio of high-performing regional innovation networks across the country.
These cluster initiatives focus on the most effective approaches to linking small businesses to regional networks of leading research, commercialization tools and financing. The Water Council will focus on the creation of a Center of Excellence (CoE) for Freshwater Innovation and Small Business Development. The CoE will promote the growth and development of small businesses operating in the water technology sector, initially in the Midwest and then expanding across the United States.
“The problem today is that while small businesses act as engines that drive job creation and economic development, many lack access to critical resources needed to catalyze and sustain growth,” said Rich Meeusen, chairman, president and CEO of Badger Meter, Inc. and co-chair and co-founder of The Water Council. “This contract by the SBA will allow The Water Council to invest in building support systems that will increase small water cluster businesses’ access to these critical resources, enabling them to grow faster, employ more people, and have a greater economic impact on their surrounding community.”
“The Water Council has made great progress ensuring Milwaukee’s place as a world water leader, growing the regional economy and has become a global leader in supporting the development of Wisconsin’s small water technology businesses,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin. “By working with the U.S. Small Business Administration, The Water Council can now extend its expertise to small businesses across the United States.”
“With over 300 water technology companies in Wisconsin, the state offers a unique advantage in water innovation and business development through The Water Council,” said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. “This designation further solidifies the state as a launch pad for small water technology businesses.”
The four Regional Innovation Cluster awardees, ranging from $500,000 to $550,000, were selected from more than 40 applicants and represent a wide range of diverse geographic areas and industries.
“Milwaukee has a history of successfully building small businesses in the water technology industry as evidenced by its current list of multi-national water technology corporations, many which began in the city more than a century ago,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a member of The Water Council board of directors.
The development of the Center of Excellence for Freshwater Innovation and Small Business Development will elevate The Water Council’s role as a global water leader. In partnership with InnovationExchange and inno360, The Water Council will develop the Water Collaborative Innovation Platform, a web-based search, innovation management and analytics tool that will enable water industry and academic researchers worldwide to conduct the most complete mining of water research information that has ever existed.
“The world is undergoing a catastrophic water crisis. No longer is water a calamity for arid developing countries – it is now an issue that everyone must face no matter where we call home,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO, The Water Council. “The Center of Excellence will help train small businesses as they navigate the international marketplace and deploy their innovative technologies to help solve these water challenges.”
Supporting The Water Council’s CoE will be a team of experts that will include the Alliance for Water Stewardship, Defense Alliance, International Water Association, Imagine H2O, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Institute for Water Business, U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service, Water Environment Federation, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The CoE will further establish Milwaukee’s water technology cluster as the go-to destination for small businesses seeking resources for growth, and continue to strengthen the cluster by attracting new and innovative talent from around the country.