Water in the Spotlight at Economic Development Conversation in Chicago

When choosing a site for a business to develop, there are several factors site selectors must consider. Recently, the conversation about what makes a community ideal for a company to locate has shifted, and utilities are rising in importance as a component.

The Area Development’s Annual Women in Economic Development Forum, held in Chicago during October, hosted more than 120 female economic development professionals from across the country. Women who represent companies looking to locate a new business spoke about the selection process during the event. Several speakers cited utilities – especially water – as being the most important factor when choosing a location.

Women from the Chicago conference

In just its second year of attending the Area Development event, Louisville Water is making its mark by ensuring water is at the forefront of economic development conversations – something many professionals haven’t considered until now.

“What a smart move,” said one economic development professional from Michigan. “I’ve never thought to work that closely with my water provider before I get a request.”

Chicago conferenceLouisville Water, Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities (KU) were among the sponsors of the forum. While there were nearly a dozen power utilities represented, Louisville Water was the only water utility that attended.

“For many years, communities have overlooked the critical role that the availability, reliability and quality of water plays into economic development,” said Kelley Dearing Smith, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing for Louisville Water.

“Several years ago, Louisville Water recognized we weren’t part of the local and regional conversations about economic development, in part because most people took our abundant supply and quality for granted,” Smith said. “We saw our product as an asset that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Water grows jobs and communities, so we started a marketing and branding campaign, in addition to developing relationships and partnerships with key stakeholders.”

Since LG&E,KU, and Louisville Water have similar service areas, it made sense to develop a strategic partnership that highlights the advantages of each utility.

Chicago conference table plugin“Utilities need to take a lead role in new development, especially in aligning the target site to the availability and capacity,” said one site selector at the forum. “Focus on utilities first – don’t estimate on the water side and think about the value of your rates.”

Availability and rates are just two of the many benefits Louisville Water offers. The city’s location on the Ohio River also provides an abundant supply of water to the utility and its broad customer base. In fact, Louisville Water has enough reserves to serve more than 30 auto manufacturing facilities.

Additionally, Louisville Water’s rates are some of the lowest in the region. Combined with the high quality of water the utility provides to the Commonwealth, Louisville Water has two of the top water treatment plants in North America.

Several professionals at the forum praised Louisville Water’s marketing and branding to emphasize water’s importance in economic development.

“I love the message you’re bringing with clever branding and even trademarking your water as Pure Tap,” another site selector commented. “Louisville’s got an advantage – you need to build on that.”

Louisville Water will continue to showcase water’s important role in economic development. By creating awareness of Louisville Water’s unique attributes and by forming strategic partnerships the award-winning utility is ensuring that water utilities continue to participate in future economic development conversations.