DETROIT - There is significant public interest in the bi-national proposal to build the new Detroit River International Crossing. And so there should be for such an important undertaking. Unfortunately, there has also been much rhetoric. As Canada's representative to the great state of Michigan, I would like to set the record straight.
Windsor-Detroit is the busiest commercial land border crossing in North America. In fact, almost half of all daily trade between our two great nations crosses the frontier between Ontario and Michigan.
In Michigan, more than 230,000 jobs depend on trade with Canada - 1,600 in Marquette County and 750 in Delta County.
In the entire 1st Congressional District, 13,000 jobs depend on trade with Canada. These are well-paying jobs - often export-related, meaning that their product is shipped, more often than not, to Canada. There are 500 employees at Grede Foundries in Kingsford, Mich., who manufacture cast metal components for truck assembly and 250 employees of Petoskey Plastics who manufacture plastic seat covers. These companies are an important part of the automotive industry's just-in-time supply chain. The value of exports to Canada from Michigan's 1st Congressional District is $500 million. And then there are the jobs created or maintained in this region by Canadian investment. In Congressman Benishek's 1st District, Canadians own 14 firms - employing 750 people.
Many of these jobs are in the automotive industry. Lexamar Corporation in Boyne City is owned by Canada's Magna International, which employs 250 people who produce plastic injection-molded automobile parts.
Clearly there is an economic imperative for Canada and Michigan to ensure that the Windsor-Detroit trade corridor remains open for business. Just a few weeks ago, adverse weather forced the closure of the Port Huron/Sarnia Bluewater Bridge to commercial traffic, resulting in a logistics nightmare - closing auto plants throughout Michigan.
Industry and labor on both sides of the border have urged the Michigan legislature to pass legislation to allow the state to participate in the building of the new bridge.
Recently, Canada's Minister of Transport, Chuck Strahl, met with then incoming Governor Rick Snyder to discuss the importance of the Detroit River International Crossing to the economies of Michigan and Canada. Minister Strahl reaffirmed Canada's commitment to the crossing and reiterated Canada's offer to increase its financial participation so that there would be no cost to Michigan taxpayers.
It is important to note that Canada's offer is not a loan. It is an increased equity stake in the project which means that Michigan will not need to contribute funding for the project, now, or in the future.
While there will be no financial risks to Michigan taxpayers, this new bridge will still be jointly owned by Michigan and Canada and there will be an oversight role for Michigan through the bridge authority that will be jointly established by the two governments.
Both the short- and long-term benefits are clear.
In the short term, construction will generate tens of thousands of much-needed jobs and economic activity.
For the long term, the new bridge is vital to securing commerce and jobs in communities across Michigan.
Further, through an innovative public-private partnership, the bridge will be built at no cost to the taxpayers of Canada or Michigan.
At the same time, governments will retain ownership and oversight of the bridge to ensure that public policy objectives are met on both sides of the Detroit River.
Simply put, it must be built.
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Roy Norton is Consul General of Canada. Consul General Norton met with the Delta County Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Thursday.