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Brookings study cites Milwaukee's water tech hub as a model industry cluster

A recent study from The Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research institute, names Milwaukee's regional water technology industry, championed by The Water Council, as one of the best industry clusters in the nation.

The study, Rethinking Cluster Initiatives, from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, serves as guidance for metropolitan leaders who may need help identifying and embracing industry clusters in their region to grow the economy. Milwaukee was used as one of five case studies that reflect a successful industry cluster. Other clusters examined for the study included central Indiana's bioscience and life sciences industry, St. Louis' agricultural tech industry, unmanned aerial systems in Syracuse, N.Y., and the automotive industry in the Upstate region of South Carolina.

According to the case study on Milwaukee, the region's water cluster consists of 175 firms generating $10.5 billion in revenue and employing more than 20,000 workers in the region.

"Milwaukee’s water technology hub represents one of the national models for identification and implementation of a cluster initiative," wrote Brad McDearman, a Brookings nonresident senior fellow who authored the Milwaukee case study. "What really stands out to me is that it positions the region at the center of solving a critical global challenge, provides Milwaukee with a new and compelling foothold in a fast changing economy, and represents a highly collaborative economic development effort that is industry driven, university fueled, and government funded. Further, it is a true branding effort that goes well beyond basic promotion. Significant investments have been made to ensure the local water technologies ecosystem matches the bold claim that Milwaukee is one of the world’s leading water centers."

Along with The Water Council, the report cites investment and collaboration with organizations like the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District for the success of water tech in the region. It also credited early stage support from the Greater Milwaukee Committee and Milwaukee 7, the regional economic development organization.

“Too often the term cluster is loosely used to encompass many good intentions so I commend Brookings for truly capturing what it takes to be a viable cluster as it requires a great deal of forethought, patience, commitment, collaboration, and, just as the report references, sometimes it is more an art than science," said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council.

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