Great Lakes Metro Chambers Push for Action on Infrastructure, Immigration and Trade

The Detroit Regional Chamber and the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition met with members of Congress and their staff during a two-day fly-in to Washington, D.C. last week to discuss several recently proposed policies that will affect business in the Great Lakes region.

During the visit, the Coalition met with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN 6), and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), among others. This visit primarily centered around advancing three of the Coalition’s top policy priorities: the development of a robust, nationwide infrastructure plan; increasing high-skilled immigration; and supporting the preservation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Coalition members spent much of their time discussing President Trump’s recently proposed infrastructure, immigration and trade policies. The infrastructure policy allocates $1.5 trillion in investment that was proposed in February. The Coalition supports developing comprehensive infrastructure legislation and increased federal funding for key projects, including an upgrade to the Soo Locks.

Regarding immigration, the Coalition continues to support high-skilled immigration. Data shows that immigrants bring the talent, labor, and spending power needed to help grow the Great Lakes’ economy. According to a New American Economy report, in the Great Lakes region alone, immigrants account for half of the population growth over the last 15 years and drove almost two-thirds of the region’s working-age population growth in the same amount of time.

Finally, the Coalition met with representatives to discuss the preservation of NAFTA. Modernization is necessary to improve trade between the United States and its allies, but pulling the United States from NAFTA would be catastrophic for businesses across the Great Lakes region that rely on restrictive-free trade with Canada and Mexico.

The Coalition will continue to engage the administration on improving infrastructure, immigration and trade regulations to help grow the region’s economy.

For more information on the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, visit http://greatlakesmetrochambers.com.

Legislative Update: Vessel Discharge Bill Would Negatively Impact Michigan’s Iron, Steel Industries

Recently, the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition (GLMCC) joined the Lake Carriers’ Association in calling on Congress to reconsider proposed amendments to the Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (CVIDA), which would subject vessels that operate exclusively within the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to the same regulations governing ballast water on commercial vessels engaged in interstate and international commerce.

While the GLMCC understands the need to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species, subjecting “lakers” to these restrictive regulations negatively impacts the region’s shipping industry, which brings thousands of jobs to the area and carries important cargo for industries such as steel and iron manufacturing.

The Detroit Regional Chamber joined GLMCC and other Great Lakes chambers in a letter outlining these concerns in a letter to U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow. View the letter below:

Dear Senators Stabenow and Peters:

There is no issue more critical for the Great Lakes shipping industry today than enactment of the Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (CVIDA). The current patchwork of federal and state vessel discharge laws and regulations undermines efforts to uniformly protect the Great Lakes. CVIDA has been incorporated into the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017, S. 1129, and this legislation could be considered in the U.S. Senate soon.

We understand that you are working diligently to craft CVIDA text that protects the Great Lakes without overwhelming the American shipping industry and the critically important supply chain that it supports. As you know, the Great Lakes U.S.-flag maritime industry is crucial to Michigan’s steel production, manufacturing, energy, construction, and agriculture sectors and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they sustain.

CVIDA is critical to the U.S.-flag fleet because it recognizes the necessity to treat commercial vessels that stay in the Great Lakes (“lakers”) differently than vessels that enter the Great Lakes from the ocean. Any provision in CVIDA that potentially removes the laker exemption in the future needs to explicitly weigh realistic environmental benefits for the lakes against the economic impacts of such a decision on the industries and employees that depend on the lakers.

The Lake Carriers’ Association forwarded language for your consideration in an effort to respond to concerns raised by groups and individuals opposing good faith efforts to work out a compromise solution. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to accept this proposal and to enact CVIDA.

Sincerely,

The Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition

Congress Passes the Water Resources Development Act in its Final Vote of the Year

On Dec. 9, the U.S. Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 prior to adjourning for the year. The legislation is highly supported by the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition (GLMCC), in which the Detroit Regional Chamber is a member and Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Chamber also serves as the executive director.

The bill authorizes 25 critical Army Corps projects in 17 states, Michigan being one of them, and provides critical investment in the country’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, assists poor and disadvantaged communities in meeting public health standards under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and promotes innovative technologies to address drought and other critical water resource needs.

The bill also responds to the drinking water crisis in Flint by providing emergency assistance to Flint and other similar communities across the country facing drinking water contamination.

The bill will now be sent to the President for signature.