Why does GR chamber back new bridge?

CEO says 1 in 7 West Michigan jobs tied to Canada

By Tony Tagliavia

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Downtown Grand Rapids is about 138 miles from the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Canada — but the head of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce says a new bridge is a West Michigan issue.

“We’ve been able to extrapolate that one in seven jobs in West Michigan are connected to our trade relationship with Canada,” president and CEO Rick Baker told 24 Hour News 8. “That means 109,000 people in our region are employed as a direct result of Canada being a good customer of businesses in our area.”

Current traffic does not justify the need for a new bridge, Baker said, but future growth will.

Mark Moroun, the Vice President of the Ambassador Bridge, was the guest on To The Point last Sunday. This Sunday, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is the guest, and will provide the administration’s reasons for supporting the construction of a new bridge. Watch To The Point at 10 a.m. Sunday on WOOD TV8.

“It’s real numbers,” Baker said. “It’s looking at historic information about what our trade has been in the past. We’ve had some decline, of course, as the economy has declined, but if we just get back to where we were there’s a need … As we are talking to our businesses — on both sides in both countries, actually — they’re all projecting growth.”

Gov. Rick Snyder’s office has touted the support of iconic West Michigan firms for a new bridge: Amway, Meijer, Steelcase and Wolverine World Wide.

Critics — including the owners of the Ambassador Bridge who have launched a massive ad campaign — have questioned whether traffic justifies the need for a new bridge. They’ve publicly challenged Gov. Rick Snyder’s contention that Michigan state tax dollars won’t be needed for the project. And some have asked whether it makes sense for the government to launch a bridge to compete with the privately-owned Ambassdaor. Current proposals call for the government to ask private firms to bid for the chance to construct and operate of the new bridge.

Baker argues providing good infrastructure is a role for government — and has been for a long time.

Snyder has pushed for swift action on the bridge, reportedly giving a July 1 deadline for action.

Asked by 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday whether he’ll get a bridge vote when he wants it, Snyder said “I’m always an impatient person. But as a practical matter, we’re going to continue to work on the bridge. I appreciate the legislature working so hard on so many issues.”

The bridge issue “just needs more homework and effort and I’m looking forward to it and that’s the nice part of relentless positive action,” the governor said, referring to one of his slogans. “One of those words is relentless, so we’ll stay after it.”