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Industry professionals discuss best practices during current economy
Ralph Eberts, executive managing director of Black & Veatch’s global water business, moderated the second in a series of roundtables on economic pressures on Nov. 2 in Washington, D.C.
The dinner dialogue, held on the eve of the American Water Summit, brought together approximately a dozen water industry leaders to discuss the question: How are we adapting and leading in difficult times?
Leaders of major U.S. utilities and heads of prominent water industry trade associations joined Black & Veatch professionals in sharing best practices they have seen succeed despite the current economic conditions.
Among the key points raised during the roundtable discussions were the following:
• Even in these challenging times, some utilities are still moving forward with their capital improvement plans in order to take advantage of competitive pricing and the current low cost of financing;
• Other utilities may be struggling during these difficult economic times and should consider merging with utilities that are financially strong;
• Particularly when more visible infrastructure projects are vying for scarce dollars, citizens, ratepayers and customers want to know exactly how much money utilities are spending and why. If the public understands the need for investment, they are generally more likely to support it; so education and outreach efforts should not be shortchanged;
• The industry should continue to look for ways to speak with one voice. Ideally that overall message would be presented by a visible, charismatic, powerful spokesperson that would draw people to the cause of water;
• Tough times highlight the need for innovation through public-private collaboration. Private companies can financially support research and public entities can provide the “laboratory” for exploring new, innovative approaches and technologies; and
• In times like these, the industry needs to consider greater collaboration among stakeholders. Merging or consolidating efforts of independent water research foundations was cited as a good starting point.