Reawakening the Giant

One hundred years ago, the people of the Great Lakes discovered the utility of water; developed premier centers of higher education; and pioneered innovative new industries, social programs, and modern cities that set the course for a nation and changed the world. Reclaiming that leadership role is essential to the region's economic competiveness and the strength of the United States of America, according to a report being released today by the Brookings Institution.

"The Great Lakes region stands today in a precarious position," the report says. "With one foot planted in a waning industrial era, the other in the emerging global economy. The region is teetering between a future marked by growth and innovation, and one that conforms to the 'Rust Belt' label applied to the region due to the decline of its factory-based economy."

"The time is now," the report states, "for Great Lakes leaders to articulate a meaningful agenda for what the states of the region and federal government can do together to ensure that this economic giant steps in the right direction."

The report, titled a Vital Center, recommends:
  • Cultivating the region's human capital with pioneering programs such as a 'common marketplace' for education and employment that focus on producing highly skilled workers.
  • Restarting the region's economic engine by stimulating R&D investment in high tech industries; pursuing emerging sectors such as alternative fuels, water tech, and next generation transportation systems; and restoring Great Lakes waterways.
  • Updating the region's social compact by modernizing health care plans, pension programs, and employment services.
  • Rebuilding decayed central cities, the innovation hubs of the new economy, with targeted investments in high speed transit, new water and sewer infrastructure, and urban redevelopment projects.

"The region can lead again by reanimating the attitudes and practices that made it great," the report concludes.