AKRON, Ohio — Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic announced Monday that the city had reached a tentative agreement with five Israeli water technology companies to make Akron the exclusive partner for Israeli water research in North America.
In a news conference, the mayor touted the plan as a $ 5 million deal for the city, although he said the city has not yet formalized any contract.
Under the deal, the city would provide five Israeli water technology companies with $ 500,000 in financial support or in-kind help. In exchange, each year the companies would make a $ 3.5 million investment in local research each year for three years.
Included in the proposed partnership are Mekerot, the Israeli government-owned water supply conglomerate, as well as the Israel Institute of Technology and MemTech, which has developed proprietary membrane technology that can efficiently filter large volumes of waste water.
In-kind assistance may include space inside the city’s wastewater treatment facility, where the mayor said the city has an abundance of empty office space.
The city is working on a $ 1.4 million sewer project, mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to clean up combined sewer overflows into the Cuyahoga River. The mayor took a few minutes of the speech to berate on the agency’s lack of willingness to negotiate on the terms of the agreement.
“There’s no off-ramps. There’s no checking about what the new technology might be that we could use and I have practically begged them,” Plusquellic railed.
The deal announced Monday is a continuation of the Akron Global Water Alliance, a partnership of water utilities and technology companies launched by the mayor in October. The city’s prior water deals include a partnership with the city of Netanya, Israel and a $ 500,000 investment in Israel’s Targetech Innovation Center incubator.
The companies are not start-ups, MemTech Vice President of Sales Oren Blonder said, but “already have full-scale projects around the world.”
Pilot projects will include efforts to reuse wastewater in applications such as irrigation, saving treated water for consumption, Blonder said. Memtech currently treats wastewater for the city of Jerusalem.
Plusquellic bragged about the experience of drinking some of the specially filtered wastewater in one trip abroad. “I actually drank out of a tap, water that was processed directly from wastewater,” he said.
Blonder said that the Israeli contingent did not yet have an exact idea of how many jobs would be initially located in the Akron area as a result of the deal.
“The idea is that there will be additional services that are going to be needed in these specialties,” Blonder said. “Part of the project is to have facilities (for) each company here in Akron, I can’t give you a number of the direct employees.”
The mayor bristled at the question of employment numbers when asked by Northeast Ohio Media Group.
“Thank God when Benjamin Franklin Goodrich got off the train he didn’t have a reporter to ask (that question),” Plusquellic said. “Well, I’m only bringing three people … every company probably starts off small, but then they build. We are not moving hundreds of thousands of people.”