June 27, 2014

Tucson’s new southwest water technology cluster: Supporting business while solving our problems, Inside Tucson Business

Jonathan Rothschild, Special to Inside Tucson Business

Decades ago, Tucson’s aerospace and defense industry cluster formed around two major assets – Davis- Monthan Air Force Base and Raytheon. In the years since, those industries have brought billions in investment and thousands of jobs to our region.

Today, the University of Arizona, Tucson Water, Pima County Wastewater and local entrepreneurs are forming a new industry cluster in Tucson – the Southwest Water Technology Cluster.

Water technology clusters are emerging in other parts of the country, focused on water issues in their region. Here in Tucson, our utilities, nonprofits, local governments and businesses are recognized leaders in desalination, groundwater recharge, reclamation, water conservation, water harvesting, green infrastructure and watershed management. We’re well-positioned to help solve some of the most pressing water challenges today.

The purpose of the Southwest Water Technology Cluster is threefold:

1) Facilitate the development of new technologies. 2) Serve as a hub for new technology testing. 3) Support and attract businesses that can benefit from our unique research, development and manufacturing capabilities.

In April, my office worked with Dr. Glenn Schrader at the University of Arizona to put together the first Southwest Water Technology Cluster workshop, held at the Pima Association of Governments. Key stakeholders attended, including the U of A, City of Tucson and Pima County water utilities, various nonprofits and businesses. The consensus was that a regional cluster can help accelerate water technologies to commercialization, address regulatory issues, and serve as a matchmaker between academia, business, utilities and other organizations – with the added benefit of growing our economy.

Tech industry clusters help bring competitive advantage to member firms through greater access to specialized resources, including knowledge workers. They also bring competitive advantage to a region, as other firms develop in and move to areas with existing firms in the same or similar industries.

Already, Tucson is home to significant assets that the Southwest Water Technology Cluster will both leverage and support.

More than 300 faculty and staff at the University of Arizona work on water-related issues. The U of A has the distinction of being ranked number one in the country and number two in the world for environmental research. Our water and wastewater utilities are state-of-the-art. A water technology company looking for R&D expertise could not do better than to look here, in Southern Arizona.We are home to growing businesses such as Tucson Embedded Systems, Paragon, Instant BioScan and HJ3, all of which produce technologies that help solve major water challenges – from remote-area water purification to continuous water quality monitoring.

Three major international water equipment manufacturers – Badger Meter, Watts Water and Xylem – have facilities in Nogales, Sonora. Rain Bird, a leader in irrigation technology, has a significant presence in Tucson. Then we have IBM, which has been working with Tucson Water to use existing information to improve service, saving water and energy.

Our water and wastewater utilities support research and industry partnerships with the University of Arizona at Pima County’s WEST Center. Recently, Tucson Water joined the Utility Partners Program of Imagine H2O, a program that connects utilities with vetted, innovative water technologies. Longstanding relationships with NASA and the Department of Defense, two federal agencies with a strong interest in water-related solutions, also present unique opportunities for our region.

Tucson has what it takes to become a world leader in solving water-related challenges. I have high hopes for the Southwest Water Technology Cluster, and will do what I can to help make it a success. If water technologies are a significant part of your business, I hope you’ll consider joining. For more information, contact Ryan Anderson at ryan.anderson@tucsonaz.gov or 791-4201.

External link: http://www.insidetucsonbusiness.com/opinion/columnists/guest_opinion/tucson-s-new-southwest-water-technology-cluster-supporting-business-while/article_b2a82450-fc8a-11e3-81c5-0019bb2963f4.html