Beating Heart of the Great Lakes – MI Economic Update

Michigan Economic Center Update

The Beating Heart of the Great Lakes

Our work to help more people, in more places, find economic opportunity for themselves and security for their families—as well as a rich and satisfying life in a thriving community—begins right here in Michigan. That is why we are so proud to share our new analysis of the economic and social power of transforming once mighty industrial centers to newly vibrant “green” and “blue” economy-based lifestyle communities.

Here in Southeast Michigan, the newly christened Great Lakes Way—180 miles of connected waterways: the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, and adjoining communities from Lake Huron all the way to Lake Erie—is a powerful engine for community economic and cultural renewal. The constellation of features that have been developed in recent decades along this historic, once exclusively industrial waterfront—greenways, walking and biking trails, water trails, parks, heritage and historical sites, pristine natural areas, and reclaimed waterfronts—brings a demonstrable emotional, social, physical, and economic payoff for the region’s residents.

The Great Lakes Way’s economic impact alone is more than $4 billion annually. That is the bottom line from our new Michigan Economic Center report The Great Lakes Way: Enriching Life at the Heart of the Great Lakes, done in partnership with the Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute.

But the Great Lakes Way is so much more. It is marking and marketing to the world the cultural and environmental importance of this “Heart of the Great Lakes” region. It celebrates and shares the great quality of life to be found here. The Great Lakes Way is helping more residents of Southeast Michigan connect to their communities, to connect to and enjoy our waters and outdoors, and better understand our region’s history and our place in the world.

People Care About Place in All Our Industrial Heartlands

People everywhere want to see their communities alive again. Sharing lessons in how once-mighty industrial heartlands can renew their economies is at the heart of the MEC-led Transforming Industrial Heartlands Initiative. Catch our new article on what the US, UK, and European leaders and economic change practitioners can learn from each other in heartland rejuvenation, just published by James and Deborah Fallows’ Our Towns Civic Foundation. Our Towns documents the many paths by which communities across the country (and now the world) are finding paths to new opportunity and prosperity—and new hope and optimism for community residents.

The article is based on our recent report—“It’s Not All A Silicon Valley”: Report of a US Midwest Learning Exchange and Study Tour for EU and UK Leaders—which shares transatlantic lessons in closing geographic economic opportunity gaps in order to strengthen democracies.

Please share this article and the full report broadly with your networks. And thanks for your help and interest in this important work—both here in Michigan, and across the globe.


John Austin