Water can fuel Milwaukee’s growth

    As I travel around the country and speak with Badger’s employees, distributors, customers and business partners, I am often asked a very simple question: "Why Milwaukee?" They want to know why Badger Meter is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis.

    Certainly other cities may be more convenient for travel (like Atlanta), more centrally located in the country (like Chicago) or closer to the investment community (like New York). So, why Milwaukee?

    The easy answer is that Badger was founded in Milwaukee in 1905. But many companies relocate as they grow, while Badger chose to remain in Milwaukee.

    What most people do not realize is that, over the past 100 years, the Milwaukee area has grown into a major hub of water technology companies. The city’s location certainly helped this development. Milwaukee is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan, which is part of the Great Lakes that comprise 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.

    As a result of this favorable location, a large number of water technology companies call the Milwaukee area home. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the Greater Milwaukee Committee found over 120 Milwaukee area companies in the water technology sector. And according to a recent report by Goldman Sachs, five of the 11 largest water technology companies in the world have significant operations in the Milwaukee area, including Veolia Water SA of France, ITT Corp., Pentair, GE Water & Process Technologies, Siemens AG of Germany and Badger Meter.

    Badger Meter comes in on the list as the 45th-largest water technology company in the world, with 1,100 employees worldwide.

    The Milwaukee area also has a significant number of other water technology companies, including the largest manufacturer of residential water heaters, A.O. Smith Corp., and control system manufacturers like Rockwell Automation Inc. and Johnson Controls Inc.

    Badger Meter is proud to be a leader among these Milwaukee-area companies in continuing to grow the region’s reputation in the water industry. In 2007, I had the honor to help found the Milwaukee Area Water Council, which brings together the area’s water technology companies, universities, and governmental entities to promote economic development in the water sector. As the CEO of Badger Meter, I also have the honor of co-chairing the Water Council along with Paul Jones, CEO of A.O. Smith. Several of Badger Meter’s employees are involved in the day-to-day work of the Water Council.

    Although the council has only existed for the past year, much has been accomplished.  The council was instrumental in getting the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee to found the first-ever School of Freshwater Sciences. We have begun work on an internship program to link local university students with the water technology companies. We have obtained government funding for some technology start-up companies. We have held two water summits in Milwaukee, continuing to develop the region as the "Silicon Valley of Water Technology."  This is just the beginning of building on the many water-related resources that are located here in Milwaukee. And having all these companies nearby helps Badger find new solutions for our customers.

    So, when people ask me, "Why Milwaukee?" I tell them that, for a water technology company, Milwaukee is simply a great place on a Great Lake. And Badger Meter is proud to be in Milwaukee.

    Richard Meeusen is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Badger Meter Inc. in Milwaukee and co-chair of the Milwaukee 7 Water Council.

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