The Buffalo Niagara region sits on the shores of two of the Great Lakes. Our geographic location is largely responsible for our history as a center of wealth and commerce, as well as our more recent history of population loss and economic decline.
It’s a story shared by many other cities and regions along the Great Lakes.
While Buffalo Niagara is moving in the right direction again, our future growth and economic outlook will be tied to that of our Great Lakes neighbors.
Recognizing our common interests and issues, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership was a founding member of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition (GLMCC).
Partnership President and CEO, Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, and I recently traveled with other members of the GLMCC to Washington, DC, to meet with Members of Congress from the Great Lakes to push for federal policy critical to the future of our region.
With one voice, GLMCC delegates advocated for base load energy sources, investment and stable funding for transportation infrastructure, and immigration reform with a specific focus on retaining high-skilled employees.
Maintaining and investing in reliable sources of base load energy is critical if we are going to continue the resurgence of manufacturing in the Great Lakes because without reliable base load energy, manufacturers can’t operate.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed emissions caps for both new and existing power plants may be a noble goal, but it’s not today’s reality.
The GLMCC supports the role renewable energy sources can and will continue to play, but Great Lakes manufactures rely on the dependability and affordability of clean coal, natural gas and nuclear power to operate, and Congress needs to block or at least modify the EPA’s proposals.
Washington continues to kick-the-can when it comes to funding transportation infrastructure in our country.
Instead of another stop gap this year, the GLMCC is pushing Congress to pass a multi-year surface transportation re-authorization bill.
The bill needs to include sustainable funding sources to maintain and improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure to ensure the safe and efficient movement of goods and people in and out of the Great Lakes and beyond.
Immigration reform is certainly a hot topic with strong positions on all sides.
The GLMCC sees immigration reform as critical to helping attract and, more importantly, retain high-skilled talent in the Great Lakes.
There is clearly a need. According to career development firm Burning Glass there are 1.6 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related jobs that are currently available and unfilled in the Great Lakes region.
To address this skills gap, the GLMCC is advocating for lifting the cap on available visas for skilled workers and establishing High Skill Immigration Zones to not only address urgent workforce issues, but repopulate older urban areas in the Great Lakes.
The future of the Great Lakes depends on us working together beyond our municipal borders and the GLMCC is leading the way.