PRESENTS GREAT LAKES AS ONE
REGION IN NEW RECOVERY PLAN
Rep. Marcy Kaptur has Ohio roots and Great Lakes vision. As a member of the U.S. House (D-Ohio), she has a plan to unite the eight Great Lakes states into one Great Lakes Authority—all part of a regional development strategy.
“There’s a new generation of people who need to see us as a system,” Kaptur says about a move that builds on legislation passed to rename the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation as the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (GLS). “We fight so hard for small dollars, and we have the largest body of fresh water in the country. We’re also the economic heartland. We need to grow up.”
For Kaptur, growing up involves the region securing federal recognition for what it contributes to the nation. The eight states make up the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes/ Seaway watershed—the core of America’s commercial and defense industrial base. The basin’s mining, steel production and manufacturing is considered “America’s critical manufacturing sector” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The eight states do 25% of all U.S. trade with Canada. Regional trade creates binational economic activity of about $6 trillion annually.
In findings influential in securing federal funds to construct the new Poe-sized lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, DHS went on to say that “Failure or disruption within these industries would result in cascading disruptions in other critical sectors of the economy, in multiple regions, and have significant national economic impact.”
To protect and maximize the benefits of the region, Kaptur advocates for forming a Great Lakes Authority, as outlined in a 13-page proposal. In addition to representing Ohio’s ninth district, Kaptur co-chairs the Great Lakes Task Force, a bipartisan working group that focuses on enhancing the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes. The task force’s other co-chairs are Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan), Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) and David Joyce (R-Ohio).
“This corridor, as Eisenhower imagined, remains critical,” Kaptur says. “The Soo Locks are probably the most strategic point in the region for waterborne commerce and the industrial heartland.”
According to the Great Lakes Authority proposal, Franklin D. Roosevelt created the model for such a strategy in 1933 with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)—“a unique institution brought into being to control the raging waters of the Tennessee River, provide low-cost electricity and advance the economic development of the underinvested seven states in the basin.”
Since then, major federal regional commissions, authorities and bureaus have been created to encompass most United States watersheds—excluding the Great Lakes states. (See the map below) Regional authorities and similar groups unite municipalities from various levels. Together, they better show the impacts of funding initiatives such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and annual budget appropriations for coastal resiliency and infrastructure maintenance and modernization.
Without the authority, Kaptur considers the Great Lakes states at a disadvantage for funding opportunities.
“Our times require a 21st Century version of such an authority in the Great Lakes region—one that can protect and wisely use the freshwaters of the Great Lakes, build back the region’s economy and be a necessary example for climate change remediation,” Kaptur says.
To protect and maximize the benefits of the region, Kaptur advocates for forming a Great Lakes Authority.
The Great Lakes Authority would:
• Restore and protect America’s principle source of freshwater,
• Foster innovation, commercialize it and create more and better jobs,
• Strengthen and expand the core U.S. manufacturing defense industrial base and the energy systems needed to sustain production,
• Create world-class worker education, training and adjustment institutions
• Partner with federal and provincial leaders of Canada on the region’s mutual challenges, including the GLS in the process.
“The Great Lakes Authority would be modeled after the TVA, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Bureau of Reclamation out west and the Bureau of Land Management,” Kaptur says. “I’ve been talking about this with the Great Lakes mayors and governors and other members of Congress. They are supporting
this effort. “The freight is growing so much. We’ve got to be a major player.”
The next step is to officially establish the authority to serve as a federal umbrella to aid in further educating Congress about the Great Lakes states role in the nation’s economy and security.
If finalized, the authority chair would be a Cabinet-level appointment by the President and be confirmed by the Senate. Four more appointees would round out the bipartisan board. The authority would be funded through similar means as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation, which includes both federally appropriated funds and revenues generated by authority projects.
The authorization would make way for a regional infrastructure bank that could finance domestic civil works projects. It could create and operate a business development fund to assist and expand regional manufacturers, fund university-based research, the 18th national laboratory, patent hub and more.
To keep raw materials moving, steelmaking happening and manufacturing taking place, funding is needed to maintain and renew the region’s locks, icebreakers, infrastructure and ecosystem. While recent federal funding for Great Lakes programs is meeting current needs, there have been years when ships were forced to light-load for lack of dredging dollars and vessels have been stranded in ice awaiting icebreaking resources.
The GLA, a concept Great Lakes elected officials have been considering since before the 2008 recession, is expected to be a tool to rebuild the region. The U.S. has closed 91,000 factories and lost five million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was enacted in 1993 and China joined the World Trade Organization in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The region’s eight states lost 1.5 million of those jobs—30% of the national loss.
The loss of these jobs has weakened the regional economy, down to the state and local governments. The GLA plan uses municipal indebtedness of Great Lakes cities as an indicator. Detroit and Cleveland, for example, have accrued bond debt of more than $2 billion. Toledo owes $1.6 billion and Milwaukee almost $1.4 billion.
“Faced with the high costs of operation, repairs, rehabilitation and replacement, coupled with unavoidable federal mandates that come with only 50% funding, these cities are forced to increase utility rates on customers who are already in economic trouble,” the plan states.
Kaptur says that a primary example of the effectiveness of an authority comes with TVA, a region which was able to guarantee a 30-year power rate to encourage development. In the Great Lakes, individual municipalities are left to win the confidence and contracts of companies looking to expand into new space. The overarching situation has negatively impacted regional innovation, a characteristic measured by product patents.
When the economy crashed and the U.S. automobile industry suffered great losses a decade ago, regional leaders commissioned The Brookings Study. Results from the study showed that consensus and increased public-private partnerships (P3) were the route to create the next economy.
Major Federal Regional Commissions, Authorities and Bureaus
To keep raw materials moving, steelmaking happening and manufacturing taking place, funding is needed to maintain and renew the region’s locks, icebreakers, infrastructure and ecosystem.
The consensus was a call for federal, state and metropolitan leaders to join with private and philanthropic sectors to:
• Invest in assets that matter, like innovation, infrastructure and human capital,
• Devise new P3 institutions that are market-oriented and performance driven and
• Reimagine governance structures to set the right conditions for economic growth.
According to the GLA plan, that advice was never realized amid political changes and gridlock.
“Neither the state, nor local governments, nor the industries, nor the companies, nor the people of the region could meet the magnitude of this challenge alone,” the plan states. “Nor could they form a joint regional strategy because there was no regional institution through which the leaders of the region could define, advocate and create such a truly regional strategy.
“What the Great Lakes region needed then, and needs even more now, is a 21st Century GLA—an institution that can help the region innovate, create jobs and confront the compounding environmental and climate challenges.”
In Kaptur’s words: “I’m trying to develop a mechanism so the Great Lakes region can catch up.”
Her vision includes more containers moving products through rivers and Lakes, stable power prices created through a binational partnership that taps into more renewable sources and further development in the Straits of Canso, where international vessels load and unload record amounts of cargo for delivery through the region’s intermodal system.
The authority is expected to educate members of Congress. It could provide improved access to federal funding while also showcasing the region as an ideal place to innovate and establish new business.
“We’ve had a problem in dry states gaining traction on the role the Great Lakes play,” Kaptur adds. “I’ve always wanted to have a big fish fry here and invite everyone. Whenever the members sit and look at any of the Great Lakes, they say, ‘I can’t see to the other side. It’s like they’re discovering a new world.’”
Janenne Irene Pung ■
About Marcy Kaptur
HAVING FIRST BEEN elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1981, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur ranks as one of the most senior members of the 117th Congress. She serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which has brought regional funding needs to light on Congress.
Kaptur is also chair of the subcommittees on Energy and Water Development, Defense, and Commerce, Justice and Science. She co-chairs the bipartisan House Great Lakes Task Force.
Hailing from Toledo and continuing to live in her childhood home there, she is the first member of her family to earn a college degree. She now is equipped with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Kaptur entered politics at a local level, serving as a city and regional planner before being appointed domestic policy advisor to President Jimmy Carter.
In previous Congresses, Kaptur witnessed the late Rep. Jim Oberstar advocate for the regional shipping industry. A Democrat from Minnesota, his district included the Port of Duluth-Superior and nearby iron ore mining.
Understanding the nation’s critical need for moving iron ore from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the steel mills at the base of the Lakes, Oberstar fought for full federal funding for a new Poe-sized lock in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. With only one aging lock able to move the system’s largest lakers through, the matter became an issue of national defense.
Even after Congress approved full federal funding for a new super lock in 2007, there were funding delays. After former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder committed $52 million for the new lock in 2018, Congress received an updated economic study and reauthorized the project at nearly $1 billion.
When word reached Kaptur, she became emotional at the longawaited win and whispered, “Jimmy, this one’s for you.”
Today, the lock is being built with full federal funding being approved annually with 2030 targeted for completion.
MEET THE TEAM
Nelson “Spence” Spencer Jr.
Nelson “Spence” Spencer, Jr. is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bound Media Group as well as publisher of Great Lakes/Seaway Review. Additionally he is the third generation Spencer to man the helm as publisher of The Waterways journal, a 134-year-old weekly trade journal, and for other Bound Media Group’s publications, such as Marina Dock Age, International Dredging Review (IDR), the Inland River Guide, Inland River Record and Quimby’s Cruising Guide.
After graduating from DePauw University and working for a law firm in Denver, Spence joined The Waterways Journal staff in advertising sales and then also as business manager until he worked his way to being named publisher. With a passion for growing B2B and B2C connections that server consumers and businesses alike, Spence continue to develop media publications to serve its constituents far into the future.
Janenne Irene Pung has been Editor of Great Lakes/Seaway Review for 16 years. During her time with the magazine, she has represented the company at binational meetings, more fully activated the Editorial Advisory Board, developed new departments and evolved editorial styles.
Prior to joining Harbor House Publishers, Pung worked in mainstream media as a reporter and editor. She then moved into risk communications for the nuclear industry, documenting (visually and in writing) and communicating the process of decommissioning a plant and returning the lakeside property to a natural state.
In addition to being a professional, Pung is a wife and mother. She teaches life skills at a woman’s transition home and is a member of the Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office Victim Services Unit. In both roles, she helps people work through trauma.
Digital Media Director
As Digital Media Director with Bound Media Group, my desire is to help develop effective digital strategies for our advertising partners across all our publications. Whether it is a custom print publication or advertising in one of our many properties such as The Waterways Journal, Harbor House or High Plains Journal, I am here to help you navigate the digital landscape.
I also have my own film company and enjoy teaching at Wichita State University and Southwestern College such as film production, storytelling, editing, computer science, web development, business strategies and marketing.
“For years, Great Lakes/Seaway Review was the monster project in our office that I didn’t have to tackle. When becoming Creative Director, I was nervous about the daunting task of designing the magazine. Since then, the team has worked hard to modernize our look and make the magazine as beautiful as it is informative.”
“Growing up, the Great Lakes were a place to swim and watch sunsets. After helping produce the magazine, I’ve learned that they are home to an entire network of companies which provide materials that support my everyday life. Each time I send the magazine to press and help prepare the digital edition, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment.”
Michelle Cortright is Publisher-Emeritus of Great Lakes/Seaway Review and Harbor House Publishers. She purchased the business from her father, diversifying the company into custom publications for chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. It has and continues to assist in regional business growth by creating business magazines, visitor guides and aiding clients with image development.
As Publisher, Cortright oversaw every aspect of product creation, which encompassed the editorial and business sides of print, digital and mobile publications. She met with our clients, which we consider true partners, spearheaded business development and was always looking ahead for “the next thing.”
She is the mother of an adult son, who is now a business owner in the same town, and is married to Rod Cortright, who pretends to be retired but remains involved as our corporate pilot and jack-of-all-trades.
“For several years I worked with a Mackinac Island, Michigan-based company and had the pleasure of photographing and taking videos of vessels passing through the Straits of Mackinac, especially the Round Island passage. My love and admiration for them was formed—and continues to grow. I now have the pleasure of working in the maritime industry and understand how important and vital these vessels are to our region and the economy. My goal is to work with our partners in the industry to help us all reach our collective best in the years ahead.”
Senior Account Manager
“Great Lakes/Seaway Review knits together every aspect of the Great Lakes commercial maritime industry from deckhands to CEOs to ports.”
Senior Account Manager
“I’ve known the magazine since Volume 1, first as a consultant in St. Paul working with Great Lakes clients and later as the Great Lakes Commission Executive Director, partnering with Jacques LesStrang. The last 30 years, I’ve worked on the inside.
“What makes Great Lakes/Seaway Review different is informed advocacy. Everything in the magazine is informed, factual and researched. We have spearheaded and partnered in research that led us to advocate for season extension, forgiveness of Seaway debt and removal of tolls, designation of the Fourth Seacoast, recognition and control of invasive species and many other issues benefitting the system today.
“Informed advocacy draws people to Great Lakes/Seaway Review for information and understanding—and it’s what makes it valuable to our advertisers and our readers.”
“Any successful business relies on timely, accurate information to stay ahead in their industry. Great Lakes/Seaway Review magazine is a trusted source of news and analysis of information needed by all members of the maritime community.”
“Historically, many of my family members have traveled the Great Lakes as ship captains, first mates and engineers. In fact, I had a family member perish when the Bradley went down in November 1958. As a child, my aunt would take me to the port in Rogers City to watch the ships load and unload their cargo. The mystique and beauty of the Great Lakes have been of particular interest to me.
“For the past 26 years, I have had the privilege of working with this talented team, which truly supports and advocates for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system.”
“I have early childhood memories of my dad loading us in the car on a Sunday afternoon and driving up to the Soo to watch the boats go through the locks, eat ice cream and buy saltwater taffy. I still go several times during the season. I have always loved that you can talk to the sailors on the ships—asking them where they’ve been and what they’re hauling. It’s like the whole world is at your doorstep.”
“Lake ports can grow no faster than shipping will permit. Shipping cannot grow beyond the capabilities of the ports. Yet neither has come close to reaching their present potential and will not until the savings in time and in dollars is fully understood by those who make the decisions on how and when and where to move goods. To the ends of development and information, the Seaway Review dedicates itself.”
Editor from 1985-2003
“Jacques LesStrang, founder of Great Lakes/Seaway Review, had many talents, or “skill sets,” as we say today. But one that served him particularly well throughout his career as a writer, editor, publisher, publicist, etc., was his knack for knowing a good story when he saw it. And the story he recognized in 1969—the 10th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway—was as good as it gets. In fact, that story was so good it is still being told today, 50 years later.
“The publication created by LesStrang, or “J.L.” as his staff knew him, to mark the Seaway’s 10th anniversary was so well done, and so well received, that it grew legs, as it were, and took off running as a full-color, high-quality quarterly which became the most widely recognized chronicler of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system. Having Great Lakes/Seaway Review continue in that role today speaks volumes about the ongoing commitment of the current Publisher Michelle Cortright to Jacques LesStrang’s vision and high standards. Staying competitive in today’s information scrum is challeng-ing, to say the least, for print media. It requires dynamic, well-researched, topical content presented accurately and in a visually compelling format. In other words, it requires telling a good story. That was true in 1969, it is still true today and nobody tells it better than Great Lakes/Seaway Review.”