Water Week unveils new Global Water Center
As Milwaukee's The Water Council moves into its new digs in Walker's Point, the organization founded seven years ago to bring together the city's water companies and research groups hosts its first Milwaukee Water Week.
In addition to hosting a kick-off of the new Global Water Center, 247 W. Freshwater Way (formerly Pittsburgh Avenue), the four days of events from Monday through Thursday this week include tours of Walnut Way Neighborhood, a talk by John Gurda, a "Let the Good Times Flow" happy hour, a tour of the Jones Island Reclamation Facility and more.
But the big news is the official opening of the center in a seven-story, 19th century red brick building with views out over the city's Reed Street Yards TIF district water research and technology park currently underway. Inside, there is gorgeous exposed brick and wood and a re-purposed freight elevator shaft. The conversion was designed by Kahler Slater.
The Global Water Center is 80 percent occupied and among the tenants are small water-based startups alongside industry giants like Badger Meter, Veolia, Rexnord and A.O. Smith, and universities like UWM and UW-Whitewater. Participants in the council's Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator project will also occupy space in the center.
"It's impossible to address the entire water ecosystem by focusing on only one issue or one type of organization," says the water council's Ryan Matthews.
"That is why our dream has always been to fill the building with large multinational companies alongside small business solution providers and academic research programs. We have tenants that have been at the forefront of water-technology innovation since the turn of the 20th century that are leasing space down the hall from companies that are less than a year old. Younger companies benefit from the mentorship of the more established ones, and the older companies benefit from the new life and creative new innovations being developed by the entrepreneurs."
So, what brings the likes of Badger Meter – who don't likely need to rent more space off-site – to the project?
"Companies like A.O. Smith, Badger Meter, Rexnord or Veolia Water North America – all companies with existing buildings in the region – are leasing space in the building because they want to be part of the action," says Matthews.
"It's not hyperbole to say that nothing of this magnitude in the water-technology market is being undertaken anywhere else in the world. This isn't just a building; it's the beginning of an entire water-technology business and research park in Reed Street Yards."
The building has some tenants that might not seem like immediately obvious ones to set up shop in a water center. But everyone in the building has something to gain and something to offer by locating in the building.
"We have tenants such as law firm Michael Best & Friedrich, Zizzo Group marketing and PR, Wipfli CPAs and Consultants, and others who have come into the building because they see the demand," says Matthews. "People may initially wonder why a law firm, marketing group and accountants would want to lease space in a building devoted to water technology. But the benefit is obvious.
"Say you have two people from different companies having lunch downstairs at Zak's Café. They're brainstorming an idea and come up with a new method of recycling hydraulic fracturing fluid. Who owns that idea? Having Michael Best & Friedrich in the building will help with intellectual property cases like that. Having Zizzo Group and Wipfli in the building offers a similar benefit: onsite consulting and marketing for one of the fastest growing technology markets.
In addition, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) and the Greater Milwaukee Committee have also already moved into their offices in the Global Water Center, which has, as Matthews mentions, an on-site lobby cafe run by nearby Zak's, and a flow lab – the only one in the Midwest – that will be available for tenants to use to run tests and for UW-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences, which occupies the entire top floor, to use as an educational facility.
"Having groups like WEDC and Greater Milwaukee Committee really ups the ante. We have partnered with WEDC in the past on international business missions all over the world. Water is a huge global issue right now, with exploding populations in the east and a changing climate stretching our resources to the max. All of our tenants either already have international business or are looking for it. Being able to partner with WEDC and Greater Milwaukee Committee to establish Milwaukee as an international hub for water-technology research and excellence brings revenue and jobs to a city that's been undergoing a major reinvention."
The idea for Milwaukee Water Week, says Matthews, grew out of The Water Council's annual water summits, which he says have drawn attendees from around the world. The next summit is slated for spring 2014.
But with the opening of the new building, the council decided to create a series of events that would be interesting and accessible to the wider public.
A full calendar of events is here.
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