Thursday, October 16, 2008

Local Chambers Launch Great Lakes/Midwest Regional Agenda

Oct 15: The Great Lakes Region Coalition (GLRC), a coalition of over 30 chambers of commerce and 94,000 job providers, has launched an initiative promoting an aggressive Federal legislative business agenda for growing the Midwest region’s economy, creating jobs and attracting investment for states in the Great Lakes area. GLRC notes that Great Lakes region, which is an important political battleground in the presidential election, makes up about a third of the nation’s overall economy and represents a third of the country’s population.

The coalition agenda includes the following business priorities: Improving the Midwest’s transportation infrastructure; Creating a more open and secure border with Canada; Adopting a comprehensive immigration policy; Diversifying the region’s economy by boosting innovation and entrepreneurship; and Harnessing the Great Lakes’ economic potential. Richard Blouse Jr., president and CEO for the Detroit Regional Chamber said, “In the global economy, regions are competing for business and jobs. The Midwest states are working together to aggressively grow jobs and attract investment.”

GLRC members said, "What is good for the Midwest is good for the United States. . .As the presidential candidates vigorously campaign for votes in these swing states, they need to hear from the employers creating jobs and growing businesses on how best to strengthen the region’s economy. . . Midwestern states are leading exporters for the U.S. and improving the region’s economic standing will strengthen the nation’s role in the global economy.”

The agenda further calls for renewing and leveraging the "Great Lakes and our natural attributes to transform the economic region by supporting business development and research opportunities compatible with fresh water technology, and water-based development, while protecting and improving both the supply and the quality of water for use in our region without diversion." The group is advocating the completion of the proposed Great Lakes Restoration plan now pending before Congress.

GLRC has defined a new Great Lakes/Midwest Region including all or parts of twelve states -- New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The initiative evolved from the Summit of Metropolitan Chambers of Commerce in the Great Lakes states, held in February, 2008. The Summit was the first of its kind in the region and was motivated by the desire of leaders of business communities in the Great Lakes region to develop a shared economic policy and advocacy agenda that reflects the common economic interests of the Great Lakes/Midwest region and addresses the opportunities that lie ahead. More than 45 CEOs and staff from 30 chambers and other business groups attended the summit, as did key staff from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.

The agenda says that the Federal government should seek to partner with public and private research organizations in the Great Lakes and calls for increased Federal support of research and development in the Great Lakes states focusing on: Clean energy; Sustainable transportation; Clean and abundant fresh water; High quality environmental conditions; and Forward-looking life sciences and health care. Further, the agenda states: "The recent ratification of the Great Lakes Compact and passage of the Great Lakes Legacy Act are major milestones in the life of the lakes and recognition of the vital role they will play in the region’s future. However, there is more to do."

Specifically the agenda calls for implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Strategy; providing funding of $13.75 billion of the estimated $26 billion to address Great Lakes needs including:Aquatic invasive species, Habitats and conservation, Coastal health, Areas of concern, Non-point sources, Toxic pollutants, Sustainable development,cr Indicators and information. Additionally, the Federal government should establish programs to control untreated ballast water from ocean-going vessels; to rebuild the region’s water and sewer infrastructure; provide adequate matching resources to eliminate combined sewer overflows and storm water runoff; provide resources to meet federal air quality standards; legal support for the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR); and increased funding for the Diesel Emission Reduction Act.

Access a release from the Detroit Regional Chamber (
click here). Access the 9-page business agenda and list of participating chambers (click here).