This newsletter discusses the development of the water cluster and related initiatives in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has historically fully embraced different sectors of the economy in order to rapidly expand employment and business opportunities in the state and beyond.  One only needs to look to the health care and life science industry in the state to recognize the impact state-funded initiatives have on burgeoning industries.  The next wave of innovation and entrepreneurship, at least according to many key policymakers in the state, will be found in the water industry.

It was only a little more than one year ago that the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs began its efforts to centralize the discussion on water technology and engineering by organizing the Symposium on Water Innovation in Massachusetts, an event that is likely to become an annual occurrence.  The goal of the symposium was to bring business, academia and government to the table to discuss how Massachusetts can position itself as an international leader in the ever-expanding water industry.  As a result of the event in 2012, organizers identified hundreds of companies and organizations in the water industry that were either based in Massachusetts or somehow contributed to the industry in the state.  Once these entities were identified, it became evident that a commonality existed and a need arose to develop a water cluster in Massachusetts.

Fast forward to the present day when legislative leaders are poised to take the next step in encouraging the development of businesses and others involved in the water industry.  It is expected that the legislature will consider legislation in Fall 2013 designed to pump funding into municipal and state projects, including wastewater and infrastructure needs.  This initiative will likely be implemented in conjunction with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a quasi-governmental agency that has prioritized the development of a Massachusetts-based water technology cluster.

Other states—like Colorado, North Carolina and Ohio—and countries around the world have taken steps to recognize the importance of the water industry by developing their own water clusters of environmental and economic activity.  For instance, Ontario, Canada, established the Water Technology Acceleration Project to expand its water industry through public and private investment in infrastructure, technology, education and services.

Although it is somewhat unclear how Massachusetts will measure its success in developing a water cluster, there is no doubt that the state is ready to make a significant investment in water-related companies and projects.  It will be crucial for water industry leaders to take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented through the bond legislation and, in particular, the estimated $2 billion in funds that may be authorized by this initiative.