US

After decade of decline, Great Lakes region pins hopes for economic comeback on water riches

  • This May 23, 2013, photo shows a view of downtown Milwaukee from the Kinnickinnic River, not far from where it connects with Lake Michigan. Milwaukee officials hope its proximity to water provides the backbone to a revitalized economy.  (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

    This May 23, 2013, photo shows a view of downtown Milwaukee from the Kinnickinnic River, not far from where it connects with Lake Michigan. Milwaukee officials hope its proximity to water provides the backbone to a revitalized economy. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)  (The Associated Press)

  • This May 23, 2013, photo shows a view of downtown Milwaukee with Lake Michigan and its shoreline to the right. Milwaukee and other once powerful industrial cities in the Great Lakes region are pinning hopes for a return to prosperity on a precious resource: fresh water. (AP Photo/Roger Schneider)

    This May 23, 2013, photo shows a view of downtown Milwaukee with Lake Michigan and its shoreline to the right. Milwaukee and other once powerful industrial cities in the Great Lakes region are pinning hopes for a return to prosperity on a precious resource: fresh water. (AP Photo/Roger Schneider)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 20, 2013, photo Dean Amhaus, president of The Water Council, stands outside a former factory building that is being renovated to house the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. A century ago the seven-story brick building was a symbol of an era when Milwaukee and other cities ringing the Great Lakes were industrial powerhouses since  long gone. Now businesses and government leaders in the Great Lakes region are pinning hopes for a return to prosperity on a precious resource: fresh water. (AP Photo/John Flesher)

    In this March 20, 2013, photo Dean Amhaus, president of The Water Council, stands outside a former factory building that is being renovated to house the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. A century ago the seven-story brick building was a symbol of an era when Milwaukee and other cities ringing the Great Lakes were industrial powerhouses since long gone. Now businesses and government leaders in the Great Lakes region are pinning hopes for a return to prosperity on a precious resource: fresh water. (AP Photo/John Flesher)  (The Associated Press)

Business and government leaders in the Great Lakes region are pinning hopes for a return to prosperity on a precious resource: fresh water.

They're encouraging the development of a so-called "blue economy" — a network of industries that make products and provide services related to water, from pump and valve manufacturers to resorts offering lakefront vacations.

It's happening as growing water scarcity casts a shadow over the economic boom in Sun Belt states. They've benefited for decades from an exodus of people and jobs from the Upper Midwest as its industrial core faded.

In Milwaukee, an organization called The Water Council is opening a refurbished building this summer that will bring together scientists and entrepreneurs to develop water-related businesses.