Quenching the Region’s Economic Thirst with Water Technology
What if we treated water as if it were gold? In some parts of the world, they do. Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, Northeast Ohio is fortunate to have an ample supply of a resource that so many people lack – fresh water. Consider this – over the last 40 years the world’s population has doubled and our use of water has quadrupled. While demand continues to mount, our water supply has remained the same with less than one percent of the Earth’s water being drinkable. Because of this, many experts estimate that up to three billion people worldwide lack safe drinking water.
While this continues to represent a major worldwide concern, Northeast Ohio is working to play a role in its solution. Led by the efforts of NorTech, a regional economic development organization, Northeast Ohio is in the midst of growing a robust technology group focused on treating, conserving and utilizing water. The “water technology cluster,” as it is referred to, is a consortium of Northeast Ohio-based companies and organizations who have come together to grow the region’s water technology industry.
Currently, the cluster includes 54 organizations, working across three water-related sectors. Together, these organizations account for 338 employees and $72 million in annual revenue. Through an extensive roadmapping process, NorTech projects that the region’s water technology cluster could create more than 3,500 direct jobs in Northeast Ohio by 2019. While the cluster aims to boost the region’s economy, it also will help develop innovative technologies that can be used to help fight the world water crisis.
Leveraging the region’s existing water-related assets, the water technology roadmap focuses on three sectors that regional leaders believe have great potential for Northeast Ohio’s continued growth. These sectors include: Automation and Control; Sorbents; and Water System Corrosion Protection. As Rebecca Bagley, President of NorTech, noted in a recent Forbes.com blog post, “The worldwide market for these sectors extends well into the tens of billions of dollars.”
As Northeast Ohio looks to play a leading role in this burgeoning industry, a number of regional companies are already having an impact. Take ABSMaterials, for example. The Wooster-based company, which launched in 2009, has grown from a team of three to more than thirty in just a few short years, propelled by its flagship product, Osorb. Osorb, a glass-like material that swells rapidly to pull small, organic toxins out of water, has proven highly effective in water treatment. While Osorb is making its mark in a number of areas, from storm water management to industrial site cleanup, it is proving especially useful when it comes to hydraulic fracturing or fracking – a process integral to the region’s growing oil and gas industry.
Another such Northeast Ohio-based company that is experiencing widespread growth is MAR Systems. Established in 2005, MAR Systems specializes in removing heavy metal contaminants from water. Through the company’s patented process, known in the marketplace as Sorbster, MAR Systems is able to remove mercury, selenium, arsenic and other metals from water, making it an extremely useful product for big industry. MAR Systems’ process has gained such widespread traction that the company has been named by BusinessWeek as one of America’s “most promising startups” and has been honored with a number of prestigious awards such as the "Top 50 Water Innovation Leaders" at the BlueTech Innovation Forum.
Through the work of companies like ABSMaterials and MAR Systems, Northeast Ohio will continue to develop its water technology cluster. Not only will the cluster benefit Northeast Ohio’s economy, it will make a lasting impact in the global effort to provide clean, safe water for populations across the world.
For more on Northeast Ohio’s developing water technology cluster, please follow the links below.
+Water Technologies: The Wave Of The Future? Part I
+Water Technologies Part II: Market Opportunities and Challenges for Water Innovation