TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan is fourth in the nation in the share of its workforce associated with industries that develop freshwater technology and services or are highly dependent on plentiful and clean water, according to a report released Thursday.
From wastewater treatment to farming and advanced manufacturing, a wide swath of the state's economy is particularly sensitive to any changes in water quality or abundance, said the analysis prepared on behalf of three public universities that conduct extensive water research.
It also says that those industries and the research provide a solid foundation for developing a "blue economy" advocated by many futurist thinkers as a path to prosperity for the Great Lakes region in the post-Rust Belt era.
"You just have to look at what's happening around the country with all the droughts to understand how important it will be in the 21st century to know how to conserve and protect water," said Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor, the consortium of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University that sponsored the analysis.
The report was produced by Anderson Economic Group, an East Lansing consulting firm that previously has examined the universities' contributions to sectors such as automobiles, information technology and alternative energy. The Associated Press obtained a copy prior to its release during the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference at Mackinac Island.
It found that 718,704 jobs in Michigan — 21.3 percent of total employment — are with industries that benefit directly from innovation and research that boost water quantity and quality. Bigger states such as California and Texas have more such jobs. But Michigan ranks fourth nationally in the share of its workforce in those industries, trailing Indiana (23.3 percent), Wisconsin (23.2 percent) and Alabama (21.3 percent).
Hawaii's rate, 7.5 percent, is lowest. The nationwide rate is 16.1 percent.