Great Lakes, Great Economic Growth

Great Lakes, Great Economic Growth

Thanks to an exceptional multimodal freight transportation system that connects it to the rest of the world, the Great Lakes Region is continuing to flourish economically, and freight traffic is growing stronger than ever.

Together the five Great Lakes comprise the world’s largest surface freshwater system and are home to U.S.- and Canada-flag ships, as well as an array of freighters from across the globe.  The region, with its network of U.S. and Canadian highways, rail and shipping networks, not only serves nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies located in the U.S. and Canada — including automakers and Tier One suppliers — but also provides an efficient route to parts of Europe and Asia, with better delivery times and costs than some ports along the U.S. East Coast.

The latest data show that the region generates a global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that is larger than Japan’s, Germany’s or the that of the United Kingdom.  Only China and the whole of the U.S. have greater GDPs.  The Great Lakes Region accounts for more than $1.3 trillion in global merchandise trade.

Some of the details in that number are stunning. For example, approximately 10,000 trucks a day pass over the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Detroit with Windsor, Ontario.  They account for nearly $500 million of trade daily, which is more from a single bridge than the entire U.S. trades daily with France, Germany, South Korea or the United Kingdom. 

The Chamber of Marine Commerce has reported continued steady expansion of shipping on the lakes and an analysis of rail and truck traffic linked to the lakes region shows strong growth in the U.S. and Canada, as well.  While lake traffic comes to a temporary halt in the coldest months of the year when the rivers, canals and the lakes freeze over and lake freighters head to port for annual repairs and upgrades, the region’s strong rail and trucking industries provide  dependable alternatives.

The Great Lakes Region has been called an Economic Powerhouse and it’s no wonder.  The impact its business and trade have on the world’s economy is enormous and as the nation’s economy grows, more steel, aluminum, grain and general cargo are moving through and around the lakes, serving the manufacturing, automotive, agriculture, mining and energy, tourism, and shipping and logistics industries. It is home to automobile and aerospace giants such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, Bombardier, GE Aviation, and Magna International, and many other diverse industries.

Annually from the Great Lakes Region more than $275 billion in merchandise is exported bilaterally between the U.S. and Canada, with another $47 billion to Mexico and $44 billion to China and the outlook is positive for continued growth.

Companies continue to provide research and development funding to support innovation in the region with more than $80 billion annually to U.S. companies and nearly $20 billion to Canadian firms — all of which is helping spur further growth. In the public sector, scientists are also funding a study of rising lake temperatures that have been attributed to climate change and a complicated ecosystem, and taking initiatives to fight invasive species, such as the Asian carp.

From the ICAT Logistics DTW headquarters near Detroit, Michigan’s largest port city, it’s been exciting to participate in the steady growth of the region as a shipping and logistics hub.  With a strengthening economy, it looks like more smooth sailing for the Great Lakes in the year ahead.

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