Making the Case for the Great Lakes Collaboration Strategy

The Brookings Institution published a report last year that analyzed the economic impact that restoring the Great Lakes would have on the eight states surrounding the lakes. The authors found that by investing $26 billion the region would reap more jobs, higher property values, a better quality of life and a $80 billion profit. Not a bad return, right? The next obvious question by localities was, how much will our city benefit?A new analysis finds that major Great Lakes cities will see economic gains between $200 million to $13.3 billion if the Great Lakes are restored.

So, the researchers went back to their results and figured out an approximate dollar figure for the rise in property values in the biggest cities around the lakes. This is only one element, however, of the overall economic impact that full investment would bring – it doesn’t include the increase in jobs, new industries and reverse migration that could result. Still, the findings are exciting as they estimate property values to increase between $29 billion and $41 billion. To be more specific, Buffalo, N.Y., would see an increase between $600 million and $1.1 billion; Milwaukee, Wisc., between $1.5 billion and $2.3 billion; Detroit, Mich., between $3 billion and $7 billion; Chicago between $7.4 billion and $13.3 billion; and Cleveland, Ohio, between $2.1 and $3.7 billion.

“This new report confirms that our region’s cities and millions of people living on or near the Great Lakes will benefit from Great Lakes restoration,” said Robert Litan, a Brookings Senior Fellow and vice president for research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, who led the team of researchers who conducted the study. “Cleaning up our nation’s largest source of fresh water will bring billions to the region by way of increased economic development, tourism, fishing and recreation. This analysis provides yet another compelling case for Congress to act now to pass federal funding of Great Lakes restoration.”

Now, we have one more slide to add to our power point presentations when we are making the case for restoring the Great Lakes. This region was once the manufacturing hub of the nation; it can again attract businesses in the new economy in the alternative energy, nanotechnology and information sectors. We still have some of the best colleges and universities in the nation; our public education is stronger than that of states with sunnier climes (according to national test scores), and now the region’s fresh water resources promise to bring higher property values as well.

In order for this to happen, we need Congress to pass and fund current legislation to modernize wastewater infrastructure, clean-up toxic pollution, stop invasive species and restore wetlands and wildlife habitat. Funding these restoration programs is critical to make the economic gains cited in the Brookings report possible. This new information about the sweeping economic benefits to this struggling region makes investing in the Great Lakes a policy slam dunk!

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