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Boreal Community Media

Study shows economic impact of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Sep 25, 2018 04:14PM ● By Editor

By Sabrina Eaton, - September 25, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Each federal dollar spent on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) generates roughly $3.35 in economic development from recreation, tourism and other industries, according to a new Great Lakes Commission study on the program's socioeconomic benefits.

The federal program launched in 2010 has spent more than $2.5 billion on more than 3,600 projects so far. The Trump administration has called for its elimination, but members of Congress from the Great Lakes region have secured funds for its continuation.

Kathryn Buckner, who heads the Council of Great Lakes Industries, said the study performed by University of Michigan economists was conceived months before the Trump administration's actions as a way to quantify benefits from the program that people who live around the Great Lakes can see.

"This ties together how important the environment and economy are to each other," Buckner told reporters as the study was released Tuesday.

It found that while the GLRI was meant to environmentally restore the Great Lakes rather than stimulate its economy, it nonetheless created or supported thousands of jobs -- approximately the same number of jobs per dollar of investment that would be created by a conventional federal stimulus program designed to boost job growth.

It also increased personal income for Great Lakes residents, attracted or retained residents in the eight Great Lakes states, and served as a "catalyst" for new real estate and commercial development, particularly in waterfront areas that previously faced decline.

The study also found :

  • Tourism activity generated by the GLRI will increase regional economic output by $1.62 from 2010 through 2036 for every dollar that's been spent between 2010 and 2016. That's nearly half the total boost in economic output found by the study. It estimated 1,700 jobs in tourism related industries were created.
  • Every dollar of GLRI spending from 2010 through 2016 increased property values in lakeside communities by $1.08, suggesting that GLRI projects provided amenities that improved the areas' quality of life.
  • A renewal of recreational activities in areas where lake cleanups occurred, and new recreational opportunities like paddle-boarding, kitesurfing and kayaking. For example, it found that in Ashtabula alone, pleasure boat registrations rose by 42 percent and boat rentals by 28 percent between 2009 and 2017.

"Residents report increased enjoyment of their communities due to the environmental improvements and increased shoreline amenities generated by the GLRI," the study said. "Employers in the case study communities are using the region's improved quality of life as a means of attracting and maintaining talent."

"The research released today shows once again that programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative can help the environment and our economy," said a statement from Molly Flanagan, a vice president at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "The GLRI is clearly a strong investment for the region, protecting our drinking water and recreation opportunities while supporting local economic growth and quality of life in communities across the region."

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