Updated: Sep 22, 2020
When thinking of Cleveland, the first words that come to mind might not currently be “cutting-edge technology”. The Cleveland Water Alliance is working to change that by focusing on what, to some, might be an unexpected angle: the region’s rich history of water. Founded in 2014 by a group of leaders who saw Cleveland’s potential, the Alliance envisions Cleveland as a global leader for freshwater tech innovation due to its density of resources, talent, industry and expertise.
Greater Cleveland’s water economy is one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in our state, due in part to our close proximity to freshwater: we sit on the shores of one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh surface water (Lake Erie and the Great Lakes). Further, the city is home to more than 300 water-related companies with products and services that include sensor technology, remote monitoring, digital water & water IoT, pipes, faucets, pumps, engineering expertise, ship building, conveyance and more, from leading corporate institutions that include Moen, Oatey, Kinetico, and Gorman-Rupp.
This sector is called the Blue Economy, which refers to the job creation and economic growth that results from the use of natural water resources by water-based businesses, water enabled industry, research centers and tech companies. From fisheries to freighting, tourism to manufacturing, pumps to plumbing – if a business or job touches water, it’s part of the Blue Economy.
With its partners, Cleveland Water Alliance leverages the region’s built-in abundance of both water resources and professional expertise to grow the Blue Economy. The Alliance is a collection of industry leaders (large and small, public to private), government agencies, public utilities, and federal labs and research academic institutions form a water innovation economic development cluster that advances a new way of thinking about regional economic development.
Nationally, the Blue Economy is hot. According to a report by the Ohio Aerospace Institute and funded the U.S. Economic Development Administration, regional jobs in the sector have increased 2.7 percent annually, a full percentage more than the national average employment growth rate of 1.7 percent. And Cleveland’s surge in the Blue Economy outpaces even national increases -Cuyahoga county, the Blue Economy is one of the fastest growing sectors with more than 300 net new jobs created annually. This growth was significantly more than in aerospace, advanced manufacturing, energy, and biohealth.
This evidence of a strong water economy is why Cleveland Water Alliance is partnering with Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Cuyahoga County Departments of Sustainability and Development to showcase Cleveland’s establishment as an epicenter of water innovation, growth, and technology.
“As a region, we have everything we need to position Cleveland as a national and global leader in the Blue Economy – the numbers are all there. We’ve got the talent, the foundation, industry partners, and the strong legacy of water tech and innovation” said Bryan Stubbs, Executive Director of the Cleveland Water Alliance.
Funded by a grant from the Cleveland Foundation, the initiative is currently conducting industry research and interviews that will be used to develop a strategy to attract Blue Economy investment and business into greater Cleveland. The next two years will focus on utilizing data from these interviews to develop a set of recommendations for business attraction, a strategic plan for location, space, research, and other needs to establish a fresh water innovation and research accelerator in Cleveland, and a marketing strategy to attract blue economy investments and businesses to the region.
“There are so many great ideas, products, and companies in Northeast Ohio that contribute to our water economy. We just want to see that grow,’’ Stubbs said. “We have a lot more to do, but we’ve got a real opportunity here.”
About Cleveland Water Alliance: Established in 2014, CWA is a non-profit organization that seeks to better utilize the economic and job-creating potential of Lake Erie while also urging greater care of this valuable, natural asset. We are among the region’s leaders working to bring together water providers, business and political leaders, researchers and environmental organizations to establish Lake Erie as a nationally recognized center for water innovation.