"There is no substitute for water. I've heard people say water is 'the next oil' but they're wrong. There are substitutes for oil. There is no substitute for water!"
To say Badger Meter Chairman, President, and CEO Richard Meeusen is bullish on water and its potential to produce economic development and create jobs for Wisconsin in general and the Milwaukee region in particular would be an understatement. Speaking to UW-Parkside students as the fall semester Executive In Residence during a program titled "Water Technology: Wisconsin's Newest Growth Industry," Meeusen said Milwaukee's past and its future are linked to water.
"This region grew up around water. What were the big industries here? Brewing and tanneries," said Meeusen. "It's logical for the water industry to locate in Milwaukee."
Noting that Milwaukee has been designated a United Nations Global Compact City as a water technology hub, Meeusen said the region is already home to 120 water-related companies employing 20,000 people?the greatest concentration of water technology companies in the world.
To help fulfill what he sees as the area's destiny, Meeusen co-chairs the Milwaukee 7 Water Council. The council is a coalition of business, academia, and government striving to make Milwaukee the global center for freshwater research, economic development, and education.
Meeusen listed several area universities that are already offering water-related courses. (UW-Parkside recently joined these institutions at the threshold of the water industry boom with its receipt of a WIRED grant. Read more about the grant by clicking http://www.uwp.edu/news/daily.communique/newstemp.cfm?storyID=3167)
Recounting his own company's success in the water business, Meeusen spoke animatedly about Badger Meter's (NYSE symbol: BMI) humble beginnings in 1905 as a machine shop. Water meters frequently froze and burst in the cold of Wisconsin's winters. Badger created a plate to protect meters and eventually became a meter manufacturer. It is currently the largest maker of flow measurement equipment in the world with sales of nearly $280 million annually and 1,225 employees worldwide.
During question and answer sessions with students, Meeusen was asked what advice he has for students coming out of college. He offered four emphatic words: "Build you network now! If you come out of here without a Rolodex full of contact information, you're being foolish!"
Along with a packed file of contacts, Meeusen advised students to master a foreign language. He also told them to approach job interviews with an inventory of stories about their personal and professional successes and their experiences at problem solving both personally and professionally.
"We are honored to have had Mr. Meeusen serve as our Executive-in-Residence for the fall semester 2009," said Fred Ebeid, dean of the UW-Parkside School of Business and Technology. "His leadership, vision, and passion in advancing the idea of using water as an economic tool to attract businesses and jobs to southeast Wisconsin is well known and applauded. Additionally, the information and advice Rich provided to our students during his presentation should prove beneficial in helping them develop and advance their own careers."Now in its eighth year, the UW-Parkside Executive In Residence series welcomes the area's top business professionals to campus. These executives share their experiences with students and answer students' questions on career-related topics. The series is sponsored by the university's School of Business and Technology.