Water Technology Innovation Cluster Kickoff

Water Technology Innovation Cluster Kickoff

Speech Date: 
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Speech Location: 
Cincinnati, Ohio
As Prepared For: 
Karen G. Mills

Thank you, Barbara (Bennett, CFO, EPA). Thank you Mayor Mallory and Dr. Williams (President, University of Cincinnati). I also want to thank the Steering Committee that has been working so hard over the past several months. Let’s give them a round of applause.

And thanks to all of the folks here at EPA, including Dr. Anastas and Administrator Jackson who we’ll hear from in a moment.

The SBA and our Ohio Small Business Development Center are excited to be here to help grow this cluster and create more good jobs in this region.
As I looked at the RSVP list today, I thought, “This is what clustering is all about.” We’ve got federal agencies: EPA, SBA, Defense… We’ve got economic development groups from all 3 states… We’ve got city, county, and state-level officials…

We’ve got the University of Cincinnati as well as Ohio State, Dayton, Kentucky, Purdue and more. (I have a special appreciation for you because my husband President of Bowdoin College up in Maine). And, of course, we’ve got both big companies and a number of small, innovative, high-growth firms that are active in clean energy technology.
Where are our entrepreneurs and business leaders?

Today, we all know the facts about America’s small businesses. 2 out of every 3 jobs each year come from small business. More than half of working Americans either own or work for small businesses.

At SBA, we serve “Main Street” small businesses, but we also serve the second kind of small firms – high-growth, high-impact firms, including some of the folks who just raised their hands.

These high-growth firms are only a fraction of all the small businesses in the U.S., but the fact is, they account for nearly all of the net new job growth. Right now, these small firms are absolutely critical to building on the growth we see in the economy.

In recent years, America’s environmental firms and small businesses have produced about $280 billion in revenues and $40 billion in exports, supporting about 1.6 million jobs. We need to build on that.

These firms are driving innovation. They’re strengthening our competitiveness. And they’re on the path to create even more good, well-paying jobs for people in this tri-state region.
Let me tell you a little story… There was a military base closure in my home state and we knew we were going to lose some jobs. The governor asked me to help see what we could do about it. We looked around and saw a 400-year-old boatbuilding industry. We also saw some cutting-edge research on composite materials at a local university.
We brought them together with other leaders in the region and they started sharing new ideas and technologies. And today, Maine-built-boats are sold as far away as Shanghai.
That’s what clusters do. They leverage existing R&D infrastructure. They coordinate the support they’re getting from the local, state and federal government. And they maximize the existing strengths of the people and the assets in their area.

That’s exactly what we want to do here with this clean water cluster. And our goal is to accelerate the commercial development and deployment of clean water technology.
The facts are clear:

Demand for clean water is growing dramatically as the U.S. and global population continue to increase. That means there will be more opportunities for innovative, high-growth small businesses to develop new products that maximize water conservation and purity.

Already these firms are beginning to answer the tough questions: How do we keep our drinking water clean and free of contaminants? How do we use water more efficiently in infrastructure projects? How do we monitor water more closely in storm runoffs? How do we minimize the amount of water that gets wasted every day?
The answers to these questions will continue to come out of regions like this and people like you.

And our vision is to make this region the hub – the epicenter – of the world’s most cutting-edge developments in clean water technology.

And that means jobs.

Already, we see small firms leading the way. For example, some of the small firms here today are doing cutting-edge work to build sensors. Some of these sensors will automatically alert us to when there are too many metals in the water after a big storm…. Other sensors could help us lower the amount of water waste in major buildings and facilities… Other new sensors and technologies will help us manage the extremes of flooding and drought.

And guess what? Other countries like China and India are looking to us for these new water technologies. They know we’ve got a good thing going.

EPA knows the value of these firms, awarding them Small Business Innovation Research grants, a program that is overseen government-wide by SBA. And I know that Administrator Jackson will be announcing even more investments by EPA through programs like this in just a moment.

Overall, the goal of clustering is simple. Uncover the best ideas from the brightest minds and the most advanced research. Then, move more of those ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace. And do it as quickly and safely as possible.

Ultimately, we want the entire world to think of this region when they look for the most innovative water technology. That success will build on itself, helping attract even more investment, and bringing additional job growth to the region.

And as the cluster grows, we will see even more entrepreneurs coming to places like this – one of the largest and most advanced labs of its kind in the nation with over half-a-million square feet of labs…

And overseen by a truly dynamic agency leader in Administrator Jackson.

So, let’s play to the strengths of this region… Let’s help this cluster flourish… And let’s continue building good 21st century jobs that help both our environment and our economy.