DETROIT (WWJ) – The prospect of using Michigan’s globally unique freshwater coast for responsible economic development drew a packed crowd of 120 people to the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority’s new headquarters on the Detroit River Thursday morning for a WWJ-GLITR business breakfast.
Port Authority and state officials and Glen LeRoy, dean of Lawrence Technological University’s College of Architecture and Design, said the sound of ringing cash registers could join lapping waves and foghorns as the sounds of the city’s riverfront.
Detroit means “The Strait” in French, and its place on the narrows between the Great Lakes is the reason it’s here in the first place, LeRoy noted.
Michigan also has a unique immunity from natural disasters, from hurricanes to floods to droughts to earthquakes to the looming effects of global climate change, and access to 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.
LeRoy said that all that gives Michigan unique advantages in the design, production and use of multimodal transportation.
LeRoy also offered a rousing defense of Detroit, saying that “Detroit is not expendable … the very image of a state is lodged in its primary city.”
John Jamian, director of the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority, noted that “we have a magnificent waterway that is capable of importing and potentially exporting anywhere in the world, right from our docks in downtown Detroit.”
The Port Authority oversees Michigan’s only deep-water international port, and oversees one of America’s largest Foreign Trade Zones.
Jamian argued for an amendment to state law regulating ships’ ballast water, saying that the law effectively requires Michigan agricultural products to be trucked to the Port of Toledo for shipment overseas rather than being shipped from Detroit. Jamian said Canada and other states have less strict regulations — and given that invasive species don’t recognize political boundaries, that makes Michigan’s law useless.
Jamian also noted that the authority is exploring passenger service between Windsor and Detroit, and administers a $1 million EPA revolving loan fund for brownfield development.
He said the authority’s efforts to boost transportation and logistics businesses tied to water, rail and road shipping could create 200,000 new jobs in southeast Michigan by the end of the decade.
There’s also a tourism component, with a dozen international cruise ships set to dock this summer at the Port Authority’s public dock. Also expected this summer are visits from antique sailing vessels marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
Michael Finney, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., spoke on the state’s efforts to create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem … we are creating an environment where companies like Google and Groupon, created by Michigan university graduate, can grow and flourish in Michigan.”
Among the incentives are campaigns to get Michigan companies to buy Michigan, loan funds and business services. More at www.michiganadvantage.org.
More about the Port Authority at www.portdetroit.com.