Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
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Global Water Ventures of Cleveland

The Cleveland Water Center Feasibility Study

For many years, people in Cleveland have asked, "Why can't we establish a major center for water here and leverage our location on the Great Lakes?"

This study seeks to answer that question. It takes a hard look at global water issues, identifies gaps in current water-related activities and organizations, and proposes an entrepreneurial model for a Cleveland center — a center that can have international impact on the sustainability of freshwater while contributing to the economic development of Northeast Ohio.

Our research, which involved business consultants and an advisory committee of community leaders, came to the following conclusions:

  • Freshwater is the substance of life and the world's most vital resource, more important than oil. Human civilization needs to transform its relationship to water.
  • Improving access to clean water is essential for the health and quality of life of billions of people around the world. Restoring freshwater ecosystems is essential for the continued existence of millions of plant and animal species. These needs will grow in the 21st century.
  • There are gaps in the process of providing water quality products and services — gaps related to research not being linked to user needs, a bias toward high-tech rather than appropriate technologies, insufficient support for product prototyping and field testing, and insufficient financial support and business acumen for commercializing products and services.
  • A center in Cleveland can plug these gaps and leverage the region's strengths in water remediation, biosciences, health care, industrial design, polymers, higher education, and other areas.

The center we are recommending has an innovative, nonprofit business model. It focuses on three areas of activity:

  • Water intelligence: Understanding stakeholder needs, compiling best practices and innovations, analyzing and identifying market opportunities.
  • Incubation: Investing in innovative technologies, assisting the start-up of viable businesses, supporting the prototyping and field testing of new products and services.
  • Implementation: Leveraging practical knowledge of real-world conditions and user needs (especially in markets in the developing world) to support business success and growth.

Our study presents a phased business plan for developing this center. The bottom line is that an investment in the range of $14 million could create a nonprofit business center that could be financially self-sustaining at the end of five years from the sale of proprietary information, consulting, licensing fees, conferences, and other revenue streams. Thus, we could create a permanent resource that would make Cleveland a global epicenter for water products and services.

This center will accelerate innovation and have the potential to help millions of people around the world. It also will attract new companies and jobs to Northeast Ohio, strengthening the region's economy while promoting a new consciousness about water — a "water culture" — that will have profound impact.

We are extremely excited by this concept — and we now have a sense of urgency about moving forward. Although Cleveland is well positioned to turn this concept into reality, it is not uniquely positioned to do so. Other cities could seize the opportunity if we delay. Therefore, we hope to move quickly into the next phase of developing Global Water Ventures of Cleveland.

David Beach
EcoCity Cleveland

Paul Alsenas
Cuyahoga County Planning Commission

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