As advocates of regional economic development, P32 supports several initiatives besides our own including the Water Economy Network (WEN). Established in partnership by Fourth Economy, the Allegheny Conference and Sustainable Pittsburgh, WEN is a working collaborative consisting of private industry, academia and regional economic development intermediaries. WEN helps its membership access water-sector project opportunities, encourage new company formation through innovative technology development and deployment, and attract both national and international water related industry to the Western Pennsylvania region. Several major initiatives were announced in the first quarter of this year designed to expand Greater Pittsburgh's water sector market opportunities.
"Our aggressive first-year plan includes spearheading a water innovation challenge program, coordinating work plans with several national water innovation collaboratives, co-hosting a major international water innovation conference in Pittsburgh and continuing to identify water sector challenges and the market opportunities they represent," says Network Chair Sam Johnson, director of water asset management for CONSOL Energy.
"It is important that this group focus on doing, not planning," said Network Vice Chair, Jack Adams, director of government affairs for Calgon Carbon. "Too often these types of efforts spend too much time discussing what can be done rather than taking action. Thus far I have seen this group of business and community leaders coalesce quickly around specific targeted activities and engage in their implementation," Adams added. The Network's 2013 work plan defines a water innovation initiative which will provide competitive seed grant funding for innovative solutions that address one of the Network's five focus areas: 1) Fossil Energy and Water nexus; 2) Industrial Water Retention and Storage; 3) Navigation and Monitoring, 4) Water Reuse and Treatment; and 5) Green Infrastructure/Storm Water Management.
Additional work plan highlights include helping to advance the Port of Pittsburgh's "Wireless Waterway Network" project, collecting inventory on regional water sector innovations and business start-ups, identifying green and innovative solutions as the region focuses on green infrastructure for storm water management and joining forces with the American Middle East Institute's Business Conference on Water Innovation to be held in Pittsburgh in October of this year. The Network also will play a role in several high-profile water-related media events throughout the year.
"It is important that we tell the story that the greater Pittsburgh and tri-state region is home to a growing and thriving water industry cluster," said Dewitt Peart, Network Board member and president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. "There are more than 3,000 water related firms already doing business in the southwestern Pennsylvania region that sustain more than 34,000 jobs. Water already represents more than $5 billion in direct economic activity," Peart added.