Cities surrounding the Great Lakes have had it tough since their manufacturing industries dwindled—but now, they're hoping for a comeback based on an enormous resource: the Lakes themselves. "We all recognize that water has become more and more of a precious commodity," says Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. "We have to do a much better job of promoting it." That's why, for instance, an old factory-turned-warehouse is being turned into a center for the "blue economy," the AP reports.
The center will house a lab for new water-related technologies plus offices for companies devoted to making the most of the resource—for example, a firm that focuses on using algae as fuel. Meanwhile, resorts will offer tourists a spot by the water, while other companies will build pumps and valves. Milwaukee alone is devoting $83.5 million to such projects during the next year. But some in the Sun Belt have their doubts about whether the effort will succeed; they say they have their own fixes for continuing drought concerns. "You guys get a little colder up there," says an Arizona businessman who doesn't plan on leaving. (Read more Great Lakes stories.)