Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Definitely Use Water - - In Milwaukee - - To Attract Businesses

Kudos to the Mayor and business community for floating out a novel idea: discounting the price of water to businesses willing to locate in Milwaukee.

This is a much better plan for development in Milwaukee, and for the region, that exporting it to Waukesha, where Common Council members harrumphed at a recent special meeting there about water supply issues at the notion of helping in the water pricing to help Milwaukee shoulder regional housing, transit and other socio-economic costs.

If people and businesses want a sweet deal on Milwaukee: move into Milwaukee.

But don't expect Milwaukee to subsidize development to areas in Waukesha County where you can't find a lot of affordable housing, or get there by bus.

In fact: all the Lakefront communities - - Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Manitowoc and points in between need to see their proximity to Lake Michigan and built intake and treatment infrastructure as a regional advantage and national recruiting boon.

The West has sunlight - - and there are plans afoot there to exploit the sun with solar power offering residents and business useful alternatives.

Good for the West.

The Midwest has wind and water - - key assets that if managed carefully and marketed skillfully - - can offer people and business what they need:

Clean energy.

Clean water.

And ample supplies of both at good prices.

Conservation and bet practices would have to underscore these arrangements, but with good water return and what is needed by the MMSD, why not?

Glad to see Barrett & Co. thinking creatively.


crackbaby said...

YES, YES, YES. This is exactly what Milwaukee and the other cities and towns in the Lake Michigan basin need to do. This is a way of valuing water that actually reflects some of the environmental and social costs of development and sprawl.

It is also a good way to internalize the true costs of the sprawl to those who move out of the urban service boundary. The white-flight suburban residents are now facing the costs of sprawl in ways that they never really thought about in the past. What goes around, comes around, I guess.....

One need only to look at Oregon in the 1980s to understand the value in using the environmental and ecological values of a place to lure the best and the brightest.

During that time, the republican war on the environment was in it's early days and the environmental community was galvanized to protect the nation's last stands of ancient forest. Forests that provided the clean and abundant drinking water for Portland and other burgs on both sides of the Cascades but which were threatened by huge, politically-inspired increases in logging public lands.

Recognizing that the true value of the ancient forests and their surrounding ecosystems was in their ability to provide clean, predictable water to growing cities and towns up and down the Pacific coast, smart people decided to use the area's quality of life to grow the economy rather than continuing to rely upon boom and bust extractive industry.

This sea change in direction was prompted, in part, by the record loss of logging jobs in Oregon despite 8 years of record logging of Oregon's ancient forests during the 1980s. Not only had the local economy lost jobs during this period, the widespread ecological damage caused by the logging was becoming impossible to ignore.

As a result, decision-makers turned to the area's natural values - the very values most threatened by unsustainable logging - to attract new business and protect their own economic interests.

And it worked. The first major company to relocate to the region was Sony. And among the major reasons for the move was the area's quality of life.

The same thing can happen for the post-industrial cities and towns in the Great Lakes watershed. Like the ecosystems of the Cascades, economic conditions in these urban centers deteriorated over the years to where they are simply not performing the functions that these economic centers should perform.

So it's time to turn to the one natural value that the sprawlburgs will never have: the Great Lakes. No matter how many gated communities they build, those who chose to flee to "safer" suburbs over the past 50 years will never have the Great Lakes.

It's time for Milwaukee, Racine, Sheboygan and the rest to understand that water is the gold of the future; after all, you can't drink a driveway and you can't eat a golf course.....

jpk said...

The Midwest only has a short window of opportunity to capitalize on its "abundance" of clean freshwater. My guess is it won't go too far.

Desalinization tech is increasingly cheaper, which means easier access to water for those coastal states with water problems.

As much as I'd like to see it happen, the Midwest won't be the new SW. There really is no "water advantage."

While this water breaks thing is a creative proposal, why not just use regular tax abatements and TIF to lure large corps? It's how Chicago got MillerCoors and Boeing and Tosa got GE.

Anon Jim said...

In theory this sounds like a good idea, businesses are always looking for an advantage via lower costs.

What I don't get is why you understand this - yet do not when it comes to every other cost be it power, labor, taxes, sewer, etc.

The savings in water cost will be more than offset by those other costs, especially if the inane cap & tax gets enacted and our power costs sky rocket.

And then you get into the reality of the type of business that will be interested in lower water costs - as in a business that uses a lot of water and therefor expels a lot of waste water.

You are going to regulate the holy hell out of them and scram bloody murder if they dump a millionth of the waste MMSD does on a regular basis.