Growing H2O Biz

As they struggle to explain and manage the intense transformation reshaping the regional economy, Great Lakes leaders continually tout biotech, alternative fuels, and homeland security as the leading business opportunities in the 21 century economy. Fueling innovation in the water industry is yet another opportunity perhaps so obvious it's regularly overlooked. But entreprenuers continue to push new ideas nonetheless.

The latest sign that the greater Great Lakes region has the unique potential to become an international hub of freshwater science and technology comes from Wisconsin, where public officials now are considering establishing a National Estuarine Research Reserve facility along the state's Lake Michigan coastline, according to a report in the Daily Press.

The proposed facility, one of 27 across the country, would advance research and education efforts related to the sustainability of natural freshwater systems. It joins a growing list of disjointed efforts - the Global Enterprise for Water Technology in Grand Rapids, MI; CLEERTEC in Cleveland, OH; the Drinking Water Technology Incubator in Oakland County, MI - that promise to redefine how the region enjoys and employs its water resource for the benefit of the economy and culture.

Meanwhile, the big economic development idea for water means harvesting the resource from the ground, packaging it in bottles, and selling it in convenience stores, as Jeff Alexander recently reported in the Muskegon Chronicle.

There's a broad spectrum of companies in the world organizing around the water resource - from the water sellers to the water savers. The people of the Great Lakes must decide which ventures they want to encourage.