Everyone benefits from second bridge to Canada

June 8, 2012
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It has been widely reported in the last week that Gov. Rick Snyder is continuing to review thoughtful sources of funding for his mission to get a new bridge built into Canada, and the governor indicated he has or is exploring several options — but none of those options is at taxpayer expense. Good for Snyder.

The only issue creating deeper difference from East to West Michigan is the state-city consent agreement for the sake of Detroit. The only way to Canada from Michigan is the Ambassador Bridge, owned privately by Detroit-area resident Manuel Moroun, who has blocked Snyder with an aggressive (and often misleading) advertising campaign. Moroun also has been successful in impeding legislative approval of the new International Crossing by buying and bullying Republicans to the point that even those in West Michigan are impotent on the matter.

Business owners suffer the current inadequacies in moving product into an international stream across the Ambassador Bridge. The Business Journal has long reported on that frustration, fraught by long delays at the Ambassador crossing, forcing such movement to other states. Delayed or undelivered product does not create value in a just-in-time world; it creates a crisis.

In a flat world with worldwide competitors, such delays are intolerable. The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce study of regional exports showed one in seven Grand Rapids-area jobs is tied to trade with Canada, a significant part of the $44 billion per year in trade between Michigan and Canada. Trade with Canada is estimated at 60 percent of all trade related to Michigan companies. Business Leaders for Michigan also has endorsed a second international crossing, among many other business groups in Michigan.

It is no wonder the Canadians have offered to fund $550 million of Michigan’s cost for the project, money that helped to secure $2.2 billion in federal highway funds for Michigan over five years. These are funds that also will help pay for other transportation construction projects across the state. It is intolerable that Michigan continues to be a “donor” state, receiving far fewer federal transportation tax dollars returned than sent by Michigan taxpayers. The fight to regain those dollars has been waged by three Michigan governors. On the eve of his first State of the State speech, Gov. Snyder returned from an unpublicized trip to D.C. securing agreement for those federal funds. As the Business Journal commented then: “Brilliant.”

One year ago during the Policy Conference sponsored annually by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, action also was encouraged by conference speaker Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor who is held in high esteem by companies — and countries — for his expertise in competitiveness.

Porter noted Michigan’s geographic location at the Canadian border as a tremendous asset, calling it “very strategic” in terms of world trade and competitiveness. “Open the borders to the world,” he encouraged.

Snyder remains focused on his practical plan to provide Michigan residents and exporters across the Midwest with a publicly owned crossing to Canada. Everyone benefits.

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