REGIONAL PLAN: New Canada/U.S. Council will Tackle Problems of Great Lakes
Great Lakes Brand Adopted by Bi-National 10-State Regional Alliance
September 22, 2013
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By: Dave Rogers
Perhaps taking a cue from our own mid-Michigan/Saginaw Bay/tri-cities brand of the Great Lakes Bay Region (GLBR), a new Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR) has been launched by Canadian and American leaders.
The new council, which began last April in Cleveland, joins leaders from eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
If it's true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as the old saw goes, leaders in this area should feel pretty good about the new bi-national group but worried about the confusion it may cause our brand.
North America's population clustered around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin over the centuries because of water abundance, notes the new group's leadership, adding:
"When we fail to act, we threaten our quality of life and economic future."
"CGLR's projects address regional concerns and strive to encourage regional collaboration, provide evidence to be used in regional decision-making, and offer concrete and practical solutions," states the group's website www.councilgreatlakesregion.org.
The idea for the local GLBR brand came out of several years of meetings of Vision Tri-Counties, notes the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce on its website. The name helps promote the Great Lakes Loons baseball team and has caught on with many groups in the mid-Michigan region that have changed their names to conform to the new brand.
The GLBR was conceived in a collaborative effort by the Midland Area, Saginaw County, and Bay Area Chambers of Commerce. The three organizations collectively form the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance, the umbrella organization that oversees the regional Leadership Institute, as well as several other regional initiatives.
Great Lakes Bay Regional Leadership Institute (or GLBRLI) has been made possible by the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance Steering Committee. Serving on the Steering Committee are the Chamber presidents, education representatives from the area's colleges and universities, and 172 graduates of Great Lakes Bay Regional Leadership Institutes from the past five years.
"As more and more initiatives are taking a regional approach, the need for leaders with a regional mindset continues to grow," states the Saginaw Chamber.
The Canadian-American CGLR has a broader, more comprehensive set of economic and environmental goals.
"Water levels in the Great Lakes were at a record low in January," noted David Kocan and Matthew Mendelsohn, co-chairs of the launch committee, in the Toronto Star. "Like many issues affecting the Great Lakes Region, Canadians and Americans are affected equally. As a region, we have common interests but no common voice."
The new bi-national council aims to address environmental and economic challenges of the Great Lakes Region.
The new Council of the Great Lakes Region will bring together leaders from federal, provincial, state and municipal governments, but environmental organizations and the private sector will run the organization.
The founders commented about the new alliance:
"It will promote the prosperity and sustainability of the Great Lakes Region.
The people who live in our region are bound together by the Great Lakes and our shared ecosystem. But environmental issues, like water levels, are also economic issues. In our region, a healthy ecosystem supports a vibrant economy -- and vice versa.
"The Great Lakes contain 20 per cent of the world's fresh water and provide drinking water to millions, while also supporting power plants and industrial ports. The beaches and wetlands live side by side with heavy industry. Niagara Falls is both natural wonder and key linchpin in power generation for the region."
Shipping, agriculture, energy and tourism all depend on healthy Great Lakes, CGLR leaders noted. The water itself is a critical input to the manufacturing and food processing sectors.
Lower water levels restricts shippers to smaller loads, increasing shipping costs per tonnage. Fewer dock workers are needed and cargo then has to be shipped by truck or rail, increasing fuel costs and emissions.
Lower water levels also dry wetlands, damaging many fish that spawn and hatch there, endangering food chains throughout the region.
"These are not Canadian issues or American issues," commented the CGLR leaders. "They are our common issues. Our futures are tied to one another. The waters of Georgian Bay are tied to those of Lake Michigan; the economy of Buffalo is tied to that of Toronto.
"People on both sides of the border know that the health of the economy and the ecosystem on one side of the border will impact those on the other side. But no organization has a mandate to focus on the future of the bi-national region.
"Infrastructure, energy, investment attraction and tourism are just a few of the issues where closer co-operation would benefit people on both sides of the border. Some of the first issues the new council will tackle will be water levels, infrastructure renewal and border improvements."
The communities around the Great Lakes are sure to be among the best places in the world to live, according to the new group's leaders. "But we must steward that common future together, with smart regulatory, policy and planning choices."
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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