If you have ever wondered about the benefits of being actively involved in the water and wastewater industry, you need to go no further than Robert J. Wimmer, president and CEO of Aqua-Aerobic Systems, Inc., and incoming chair for the Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, Inc. (WWEMA).
WWD: What is WWEMA and how does a company or manufacturer become involved in the association?
Robert J. Wimmer: WWEMA is the pre-eminent and influential voice of our industry sector on all matters that affect our common interests. Since its inception in 1908, WWEMA has served to advance the common business interests of its members. WWEMA provides manufacturers of water and wastewater technologies with a responsible and responsive presence in Washington, by working with the government to establish sound environmental laws and regulations that take into account the capabilities of our members’ products and by advocating international trade policies and promotional activities that advance our members’ ability to compete in the global marketplace.
WWD: WWEMA’s 31st Annual Washington Forum is scheduled for May 5–7. What can the WWEMA members attending this event expect?
Wimmer: It is an opportunity in a short time span to discover the dynamics that are driving our market place from an economic and legislative point of view. WWEMA has always attracted key policy makers to this event, which is a tribute to the stature of WWEMA as it relates to our association’s view of the direction of the industry.
The program covers a wide range of applicable topics and with the presence of government officials and industry leaders, the networking possibilities are invaluable.
WWD: In the past, you have mentioned how change affects the water/wastewater industry. What changes do you anticipate for the industry in 2004?
Wimmer: The demand for clean water will continue to raise the profile of our industry on a domestic and global basis. Futurists have predicted that water will become one of the most valuable commodities in the world. The price of water will go up! There are signs that this is already starting to happen. Increased water prices and the potential for high returns on investment will force the rate of technological changes in our industry.
It has also been said that our industry is fragmented and ripe for consolidation. There have been several attempts at consolidation. Today, there is still room for niche businesses to dominate certain segments of the industry.
The question is as the economic value of water increases and the potential return on technological investment rises, will there be room for the niche business?
There will continue to be changes in ownership among some of the better known equipment companies in our business as European utility conglomerates divest of their U.S. equipment holdings. As the economy picks up steam, it is our expectation that cities will begin to loosen their purse strings and begin investing in the water infrastructure projects they have been postponing during the past several years.
WWD: As an equipment manufacturer, what request or recommendation do you hear from utilities and municipalities as it pertains to water/wastewater equipment?
Wimmer: The utilities are pushing the manufacturer for efficiency. They want to be able to process more water with less equipment, less operating utility to a higher degree of purification. All at less cost! No easy task. Companies that will survive and prosper must be able to meet these demands.