Last October, I was invited to address an enthusiastic group of stakeholders in the midst of launching Tacoma, Washington as a technology center for the water industry. While I have spent considerable time in Seattle over the years, this event was my first trip to Tacoma — a city whose history is as interesting as its aspirations. Located on the natural harbor of Commencement Bay, in the shelter of Puget Sound, Tacoma boomed in the late 19th century as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, a decision that shocked the Seattle establishment in its day. Today, it is the largest port in Washington state and a major gateway to the Pacific.  And while the city’s fortunes have experienced both highs and lows over the last century and a half, the 1990 establishment of the University of Washington Tacoma campus, in the midst of the historic downtown area, has lifted the prospects for future successes and emboldened the community to redefine its mission. Naturally, water continues to be a central theme in that story.

The Wellspring 2012 Conference was organized by the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County and hosted at the University of Washington Tacoma, with the stated purpose of “sharing ideas to build a water economy” in the region. In fact, Tacoma has learned a great deal about the complex water quality issues created by a booming industrial waterfront in the midst of a natural ecosystem of immeasurable beauty and value. It is successfully transitioning its waterfront assets to new uses and purposes, and sees its experience and talent as a worthy example for the broader water industry. In fact, its newly opened Center for Urban Waters, housed in an impressive LEED Platinum facility, is tangible evidence of the serious commitment to water industry leadership that the community of Tacoma represents. Take a look at the Wellspring 2012 website, where other videos from that October conference are offered. As a closing aside, I was told after my presentation that there would be no editing of the videotapes. So my off-the-cuff promotion of CH2M HILL near the end of my keynote remains intact. Let’s keep that among us . . .

Photo: Tacoma Museum of Glass on the Thea Foss Waterway by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson

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