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Friday, March 23, 2012

Let's Make Michigan a Hub for Trade

The following article was published in the Detroit News on March 22, 2012 at 8:22 am

Make Michigan regional trade hub, experts say

Panelists: Increased foreign deals key to U.S., Canadian cities

Lansing — Michigan cities and towns that border Canada are increasingly setting their sights on efforts to rebuild local and regional economies by increasing foreign trade, according to panelists at a Wednesday forum sponsored by Michigan State University.
Economic development experts from downtown Detroit to Sault Ste. Marie in the eastern Upper Peninsula shared their strategies and struggles to add jobs, growth and wealth to their communities with efforts that not only target trade with Canada and other nations, but that also include joint efforts with their neighbors to the north.
By thinking cooperatively and creatively, they say, Michigan can build itself into a regional trade hub and vital link in the global supply chain.
"Michigan has an opportunity to think very innovatively," said AnnMarie Schneider, director of program planning and policy education at MSU's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.
Michigan should build on its existing strength in trade, Ben Erulkar of the Detroit Regional Chamber told the forum. Foreign automakers spent $1.6 billion in research and development in the U.S. last year, he said, $1.2 billion of it in Michigan. With exports of $51 billion to 200 countries in 2011, Michigan was a Top 10 state for export growth.
"Michigan is a global player," Erulkar said. "We are fully integrated into the global economy."
In the Genesee County region, the Next Michigan Corp. is focusing on the growth of existing companies, noted Janice Karcher of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce. Like many communities, the region's focus includes transportation, logistics and distribution, through a project called the I-69 International Trade Corridor.
Karcher noted the heavy rail traffic through the Genesee region, mostly headed to Chicago. But once the cargo is delivered there, much of it is trucked back to Michigan. Her region is focusing on developing a freight hub where that cargo can be unloaded without requiring a return trip. Such efforts can create 18,000 direct new jobs, she said.
Representatives of Sault Ste. Marie and St. Claire County also discussed their efforts to work jointly on regional business and economic development with Canadian cities across the water.
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