Dave Reid

Water for Jobs Application Approved by City Committee

By - Jan 7th, 2010 08:38 am
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At the January 6th, 2010 Public Works Committee meeting the first step was taken towards creating a special water rate that could be given to businesses in return for job creation within the City of Milwaukee.  Specifically, the committee approved an application to the Public Service Commission requesting a rate category be created to accommodate this request.  This rate would allow discounted, potentially free, water use for companies relocating or expanding in Milwaukee provided they create 25 new jobs, and require 35,000 gallons of water a day.  The discounted rate would be eligible for five years for a firm relocating to Milwaukee and three years for a firm expanding in Milwaukee.  It would also require the firm to submit a water use plan to insure that water wasn’t being wasted.

This concept, which had been floated by Mayor Tom Barrett recently, is just one part of a bigger vision of branding Milwaukee as a water industry hub.  Other pieces of this puzzle include UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences, Marquette University’s new water law specialty, the proposed Reed Street Yards redevelopment, the 30th Street Industrial Corridor redevelopment, and a variety of other initiatives and ideas.  As Alderman Murphy explained this is a “unique, creative idea,” but it also just one piece of the plan.

Although, somewhat similar proposals have turned down by the Public Service Commission in the past, Carrie Lewis, Superintendent of the Milwaukee Water Works, explained that this particular rate’s likelihood of being approved is “excellent.”  She explained that the previous proposals were viewed as “discriminatory,” by the commission but that this proposal isn’t being viewed similarly because the Milwaukee Water Works has excess capacity, and that this would allow the Milwaukee Water Works to better utilize the existing system, and therefore in the long run hold costs down for all users.

Categories: Real Estate

5 thoughts on “Water for Jobs Application Approved by City Committee”

  1. I’m glad to see that this idea has support in the Common Council, and it’s something that could provide some benefit to Milwaukee. However, mind the caution that Ald. Murphy expressed in the JS article. This isn’t something that’s going to make a significant amount of difference when it comes to business attraction. The cost of water is a small percentage of production costs, even for heavy water users. Also, Milwaukee’s water is already significantly cheaper than water sold throughout most of the country. When making business location decisions, the cost of water is overwhelmed by other costs, like energy, access to adequate human capital, and probably even state corporate taxes. Still, Water Works is apparently running at only 1/3 of capacity, and any effort to exploit the resource that also ensures that water will be safely returned to the source can only bring benefits, even if modest.

    But, let’s not pretend that this initiative has much to do with the water industry. This is an effort to attract heavy water users, who may or may not be part of the water industry. Paper mills are some of the biggest industrial water users, for example. The Water Council has gotten away with conflating all sorts of things with the water industry that shouldn’t be there, such as companies that make boat engines for example. This deception is just harmless advertising right now, but soon there will be millions of taxpayer dollars on the line based on suspect theories of the water industry and Milwaukee’s place in it. I hope the community thinks through those issues carefully when they arise.

  2. Ken says:

    It’s good to see that more effort has been put forth to attract new businesses and to keep commerce in Milwaukee. Far too long Wisconsin government has been a detriment to attracting new companies. When I see what the surrounding states have to offer as far as tax benefits and reasons to do business we need to catch up- and fast.

    I believe this is a great step into growing, building, and keeping jobs in Milwaukee!

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Nate Clearly, and as Alderman Murphy pointed out this is really part of the marketing.

    That said as far as the Water Council, to me at least, they have been clear it isn’t simply about water research… but about big users as well.

  4. Saying that a heavy water user is a part of the water industry is like saying that a department store is a part of the energy industry, since it uses a lot of electricity.

    Yes, the water industry is about research and about all industries involved in the delivery of clean water to an end user, makers of valves, filtration systems, infrastructure and the like. When people on the Water Council cite national or global water industry statistics, it is likely that they are citing this Goldman Sachs report that pretty thoroughly and authoritatively breaks down what the water sector has been classified as:

    http://www.questwatersolutions.com/Quest%20Water%20Solutions%20Inc./Home_files/2008%20Goldman%20Sachs%20Water%20Primer-1.pdf

    The “over 120 water companies” so often cited was conjured up by UWM Prof. Sammis White and he doesn’t include companies that use water in production processes or as products.

    http://www.gmconline.org/images/stories/PDF_files/water_summit_ii_white_paper.pdf

    But, he doesn’t mind including “water-play” companies (makers of boats and such) to inflate the very bogus 120 company/20k employee stats that get thrown around unchallenged, even though they have literally nothing to do with the delivery of clean water. If all of this stuff is just conflated for slick marketing purposes, I don’t have much of a problem with that. Milwaukee gets the short of the end of the stick when it comes to perception, it deserves to inflate some things sometimes to offset that. I drink several quarts of clean water every day, they have my permission to include me in water hub stats if they think it’ll help the city.

    But if this irrational exuberance leads to an effort to spend tens of millions of Milwaukee tax dollars to bribe businesses on the theory that Milwaukee will be the Silicon Valley of the water industry, that’s where the Water Council needs to get called out and when we need to bring reality into the equation. It would be tragic to fund false promises while better ideas go unfunded. Early indications suggest we’re on that path, as everybody just seems to accept whatever the Water Council says without second thought.

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Nate I’m just saying from the beginning they have indicated, by referencing history, part of the initiative is to go after firms with significant water needs.

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