When Rich Meeusen took over as chief executive officer of Badger Meter Inc. in 2002, turning Milwaukee into the "Fresh Coast" capitol of the world was not the first thing on his mind.
That didn't come up until about three years ago, when he had what he called a "Eureka" moment while visiting Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp.
"I thought to myself, here is the world's largest maker of water heaters, and Badger Meter is the largest water meter maker in North America," Meeusen said. "We could work together to use Milwaukee's greatest resource."
It was a basic idea, but water is a key resource that had been overlooked in Milwaukee, he said.
That thought in mind, Meeusen and others began to mobilize forces in Milwaukee such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, The Greater Milwaukee Committee and the mayor's office.
They identified 120 water technology companies in the Milwaukee area alone, and five of the world's 11 largest water technology companies had a significant presence in Milwaukee.
Meeusen took that information and formed the Milwaukee 7 Water Council, a group dedicated to making Milwaukee a hub for water technology.
Over the past three years, Meeusen, as chairman, and the rest of the council have worked to develop the UWM School of Freshwater Science, an internship program and resource center, and to increase community awareness about Milwaukee's precious resource.
"Water is a growth industry," Meeusen said. "With the concentration of companies we've got here, plus now with getting a School of Freshwater Science, plus all of the other activities and universities working together, Milwaukee can really be a leader in water technology."
Badger Meter was one of the few companies that had a record year in 2008, indicating the growth in the water industry, Meeusen said. That growth could be instrumental in creating jobs and boosting economic development in Milwaukee.
"I was born and raised in Milwaukee; I have a very deep love for this city. I want to see it be very successful economically. I feel that running a company like Badger Meter and being on the Water Council all help the city create jobs and be a force for economic development."
Address: 4545 W. Brown Deer Road, Brown Deer
Web Site: www.badgermeter.com
Industry: Water meters
Revenues: $280 million