Feb 04, 2016

Milwaukee's Global Water Center to Expand

State grant will provide funding for future tenants

milwaukee, global water center, the water council

The rapid fulfillment of leasing opportunities in Milwaukee’s Global Water Center since the building’s completion in 2013 has led to the purchase of a second, nearby building to house additional companies seeking to tap the growing network of industry resources located in Milwaukee’s burgeoning Water Technology District.

In July 2015, an ownership group including The Water Council acquired a five-story, 46,000 sq ft warehouse building at 326 – 332 Florida Street, a five-minute walk from the Global Water Center. The Water Council plans to develop the building as Global Water Center II (GWC II) to advance water industry cluster development and innovation above and beyond its current assets.

At seven stories and 98,000 sq ft, the original Global Water Center building today is populated by more than 40 tenants—a mixture of entrepreneurs, water researchers, engineers and staff representing small, medium and large water technology companies as well as universities. Activities taking place within the facility range from research and development; startup company acceleration and mentoring and business attraction initiatives. Additional space is now needed for graduates of The Water Council’s business acceleration programs and for expanding and new industry cluster participants attracted to the world’s most active water technology district.

“It is simply ‘supply and demand’ as we need more space to meet the interest of businesses from across the world,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council. “GWC II will be a big help as it will provide options not available in our first building.”

By offering expansion space for startup companies that complete The Water Council’s accelerator program and other early-stage ventures, GWC II effectively serves to attract and retain promising new high-tech businesses.

Tenants of GWC II, which is scheduled to be completed in Jan. 2017, will enjoy full access to the amenities offered in the original Global Water Center building, including the flow lab, auditorium, boardroom and café. Additionally, GWC II will include prototyping space that will allow for quick product development for tenants of both buildings.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is supporting the project with a $750,000 Targeted Industry Promotion investment, which will help subsidize office space leases for eligible companies. WEDC’s assistance will allow The Water Council to lease 11,728 sq ft of GWC II across three levels for less than half of the market rate for three years. A similar WEDC investment in the original Global Water Center also provided tenant lease assistance.

The refurbishment of GWC II has also benefitted from WEDC Site Assessment Grants and Historic Tax Credits. Additionally, WEDC has provided successive funding for The Water Council’s accelerator program, The BREW, which guides water-related startups toward commercialization and operation as independent businesses, while also providing research space for universities and water technology companies.

“Wisconsin leads the world in water technology advancements, and the work of The Water Council and its members demonstrates the power of collaboration between industry, government and academia not only to solve global challenges, but also to develop a thriving business sector,” said WEDC secretary and CEO Mark Hogan.

Wisconsin’s leadership in water technology innovation through the efforts of The Water Council and industry cluster participants in Milwaukee and throughout the state is drawing national and international attention and producing new business opportunities on a global scale.

In December, Amhaus participated in a White House roundtable on water innovation along with UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences dean David Garman. In July 2014, Amhaus co-led a private sector and university delegation with Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett to the White House to brief key White House staff on The Water Council’s progress and to encourage increased federal attention on water technologies and innovation, highlighting Milwaukee’s leadership and unique public-private partnership focused on water solutions.

The Water Council frequently hosts national and international delegations interested in learning more about Milwaukee’s cluster development model. The Council’s network includes partner organizations in France, the Netherlands, China and other parts of Asia. In 2015, The Water Council hosted representatives from more than 47 countries who traveled to Milwaukee to witness firsthand Wisconsin’s water industry development outcomes.

Demonstrating Wisconsin’s leadership as a global water technology hub was the announcement by Rexnord Corporation in June 2015 that it would relocate the global headquarters of its Zurn business to the Reed Street Yards Water Technology Park in Milwaukee. Zurn is a leader in engineered water solutions that provide and enhance water quality, conservation, safety and flow control in a variety of end markets.

Milwaukee’s water industry cluster development is also paying dividends locally, with more than $211 million in public and private investment made in the Water Technology District over the past five years, according to a recent economic investment analysis of the area by Kristian Vaughn of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Milwaukee’s Water Technology District comprises the Walker’s Point, Fifth Ward and Harbor District neighborhoods. Vaughn’s analysis also found that economic development in the water sector has had a very positive impact on property values in the area compared to other parts of the city.