Great Lakes Mean Great Benefits in Buffalo Niagara

University of Michigan study reports on economic impact of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

It is an environmental restoration program, but it has produced significant economic benefits for the Great Lakes region, including Buffalo Niagara.

That is the conclusion of a study done by economists at the University of Michigan on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a comprehensive restoration strategy for the lakes. Findings of the study were released in a September report that is attracting a lot of media attention.

As a founding member of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition (GLMCC), the Buffalo Niagara Partnership proudly considers the study results as a win for one of our key advocacy priorities. Since its founding, the GLMCC has become a leading and effective voice on federal policy impacting the Great Lakes region. The University of Michigan study provides added support for our mission to jointly advocate on core policy issues including water quality, trade, and transportation and infrastructure.

Some background.

GLRI was started under the administration of President George W. Bush in 2004 and implemented during the administration of President Barrack Obama. Since then, the GLRI program has been funded annually to implement strategies under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Collaborative efforts have been initiated involving the EPA, other federal agencies, the eight Great Lakes states, and countless local communities, conservation groups and other partners.

A big impact.

As one of the world’s greatest natural resources – holding 20 percent of the earth’s supply of surface fresh water – the Great Lakes have long been a major economic force. The lakes provide drinking water, work and recreation for tens of millions of Americans.

Threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem – pollution, invasive species, outbreaks of toxic algae, etc. – make the GLRI more important than ever. While GLRI programs address such problems, communities such as Western New York have also benefitted from the significant spending on these programs.

According to the GLRI study, the federal government spent $1.4 billion on GLRI projects in the Great Lakes states from 2010 through 2016, triggering $360 million in matching funds from state and local governments and industry. These investments generated additional economic activity in the region each year during that time frame, reaching a peak of over $500 million in 2015.

Big local benefits.

In Buffalo Niagara – on the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario – we certainly benefit from the cleanup efforts of GLRI in terms of higher water quality. The area also benefits from more tourism, recreational activities, and waterfront development that results from having cleaner lakes.

The GLRI study points out that for every dollar the U.S. government spends on restoring Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, Buffalo Niagara area could see more than $4 of additional economic gain through the next couple of decades.

A separate case study of Buffalo, NY provides more details on the economic impact of GLRI in Western New York. The case study highlights a resurgence of waterfront living, waterfront developments such as Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, and new options for waterfront entertainment and recreation.

Navigating the future.

The University of Michigan study suggests that economic activity generated by the GLRI will continue as restoration activities are completed, the Great Lakes ecosystem continues to recover, and additional benefits are seen in Great Lakes communities.

A spending package passed by a bi-partisan vote in Congress and signed by President Trump this past spring includes $300 million for GLRI. However, it should be noted that in his proposed budget, President Trump zeroed out funding for the initiative.  Congress came together in a bi-partisan way to fully restore it.

The fact is, GLRI funding cannot be taken for granted. Which is why the Partnership and our partners in the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition will continue to advocate for this vital initiative.

Click here to download a copy of the University of Michigan study.

Read more in a recent article in The Buffalo News.

Grant Loomis Headshot

About Grant Loomis

Vice President, Government Affairs