Water and wastewater treatment is expected to grow into a $22 billion industry over the next two years. And with Minnesota-based companies like 3M, Dow, Ecolab, GE and Pentair leading the industry, the state is well-positioned to capture much of that growth.
Innovative water-tech companies are drawn to Minnesota by these key advantages:
A Growing Cluster
The state's water-tech industry is both strong and diverse, employing nearly 15,500 workers. National and international demand for product continues to grow at a vigorous pace, as does interest in the state's unusual concentration of expertise in the industry.
Minnesota is home to excellent universities with unrivaled expertise in water technology and abundant human capital. But brain-power is just the beginning. The state is also rich in world-class financial, legal, and logistics companies to support every step in the product cycle.
State and local governments partner with business and industry to ensure that companies can easily startup, relocate or expand operations, find workers with the right skills, and access the technical expertise they need.
Minnesota's central North American location is a true logistical advantage. Exceptional rail, waterway, air and road access make reaching global suppliers and customers easy and affordable.
Excellent Business Climate
An ample supply of skilled and educated workers, a long tradition of high-tech, precision manufacturing, a track record of innovation and success, add up to an irresistible combination for water-tech companies.
A Leading Water-Tech Exporter
With more than $729 million in foreign sales in 2012, Minnesota is among the top 10 U.S. exporters of water and wastewater technology. The state's water-tech exports have grown 170 percent over the past decade.
Minnesota’s water industry is creating high-paying jobs and improving access to clean water across the state and world. This growing industry—combined with Minnesota’s collection of water companies, complementary industries, supporting institutions, policies and laws—may suggest an emerging water cluster. Minnesota’s Water Industry Profile is the state’s most comprehensive look at trends in this fast-growing industry.
Minnesota’s water industry includes a variety of companies and organizations that create or provide products or services to improve the use, quality and flow of water.
The industry, led by its Fortune 500 companies, has experienced strong employment growth. The state’s water industry employed about 13,500 workers in 2014 and grew three times faster than overall state employment over the last decade.
Water jobs tend to be good jobs. Average annual wages in the water industry were about $65,500 in 2014, 27 percent higher than the state average annual wage of $51,600.
Minnesota is advancing innovation in water with strong patenting and exports. On a per capita basis, Minnesota was third in water technology patents in 2014. From 2004 to 2014,
Minnesota’s water technology exports were in top ten nationally and more than doubled from $430 million to $870 million (adjusted for inflation).
At the center of all successful cluster efforts are excellent universities. The University of Minnesota offers highly regarded water-specific programs, employs some of the nation’s leading water technology researchers, and connects industry to ideas and inventions.
This analysis finds that the state has an emerging water cluster. With proper growth and investment, a water cluster would increase innovation, productivity, and prosperity. The public and private sector can assist in this growth by fostering industry partnerships, investing in new technologies, and creating a Minnesota water technology brand.
Minnesota's Water Industry Brochure
An eight-page overview of the state's dynamic and fast-growing water technology industry. Download the brochure.
Water supplies around the world are under tremendous pressure. The United Nations predicts that 2 billion people will face water scarcity by the year 2050.
To address this impending crisis, an estimated $22 trillion in water infrastructure investments will be necessary worldwide by 2030. Minnesota companies have special expertise in several important areas.
Water Treatment and Reuse
Minnesota is home to major operations of Ecolab, GE, and Pentair, recognized by Citi Research & Analysis as the world's top water reuse companies.
No other state has such a concentration of this kind of expertise. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the amount of recycled water will double over the next five years.
Filtration, Desalination and Membranes Technology
Named among the world's top seven companies for membrane technology, Minnesota-based Dow, GE, Pentair and 3M have invested millions in in advanced filtration. Morgan Stanley projects that membrane technology alone will grow an impressive 42 percent from $3.3 billion in 2010 to $4.7 billion in 2016.
Efficient pumps are vital to booming industries like desalination, irrigation and wastewater treatment. Minnesota ranks fifth in the nation for pumping equipment manufacturing employment overall, and second in the Midwest.
With long-established innovators like Aeration Industries and Aeromix Systems, Minnesota has developed an strong competitive advantage in the export of aeration technologies.
Minneapolis-based Pentair (now merged with Tyco Flow Control) is a global water flow management and filtration powerhouse, with $7.7 billion in annual revenues.
The firm's nanofiltration technology is helping meet growing global demand for water purification.
Ecolab's acquisition of Nalco, the world's largest maker of industrial water treatment technology, positions it at the forefront of an industry expected to grow 5.9 percent annually.
Renowned innovator 3M makes water filters and sensors that detect leaks in water infrastructure. Considering that 20 percent of municipal water is lost annually to leaks, this product can dramatically decrease waste.
General Electric Water & Process Technologies
The company has a center of excellence in Minnesota for manufacturing of reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes.
Dow Water & Process Solutions
The Edina-based company manufactures water purification and desalination membranes, employing 500 people.
Aeration Industries International
A pioneer in aeration technology, the company has sales in 92 countries worldwide.
Open Systems International
Offers applications to manage and optimize large water and hydro networks.
A startup that launched with technology licensed from the University of Minnesota, the company creates filters that use enzymes to reduce atrazine concentrations in water.
A Minnesota-based online superstore for water filters, the company saw its revenue nearly quadruple in less than five years.