Gov. Rick Snyder: New Detroit bridge will boost West Michigan, entire state

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Don’t think of the New International Trade Crossing as just a bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder urges.

Think of it as an essential link for international business and a symbol of shared peace and prosperity between two friendly nations, the Republican governor writes in the following guest column.

And think of it as a key economic boost to West Michigan.

“Multiple and efficient border crossings are vital to the continued transport of West Michigan products like automobile parts, office furniture, vitamins and agricultural commodities,” the governor writes.

While the new bridge, called the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) will be built in Detroit, I cannot overstate its importance to the West Michigan economy. Economic studies have concluded that one in seven jobs in West Michigan is connected to trade with Canada.

That fact was top of mind when the The Right Place and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce went on record in support of the bridge. The chamber concluded the NITC would support 109,000 jobs in West Michigan.

Multiple and efficient border crossings are vital to the continued transport of West Michigan products like automobile parts, office furniture, vitamins and agricultural commodities. For instance, Michigan ranks third nationally in asparagus production, and much of that is grown in West Michigan and shipped to Canada.

In a broader sense, a second crossing is vital to North America. Some 37 states count Canada as their top trading partner. Further, the U.S. exported some $280 billion in goods to Canada in 2011, up 13 percent from 2010, and up 59 percent from 2000.

The NITC will create thousands of private-sector — emphasis on private sector — construction-related jobs in the near future and aid long-term growth for Canadian and Michigan companies large and small.

That’s why the NITC has the backing of Michigan’s top business leaders, including West Michigan CEOs Brian Walker (Herman Miller), Doug DeVos (Amway), Jim Hackett (Steelcase) and Mark Murray (Meijer).

More profoundly, this project has spawned an unprecedented alliance between business and labor leaders. The NITC enjoys the support of the Michigan State AFL-CIO and the Canadian Auto Workers.

The U.S. endorsement of a plan to build a second crossing in partnership with the Canadian government and a host of private businesses fits a broader model of how modern government should support commerce. Governments in both countries will enable the private sector to create thousands of jobs during construction of the bridge and heed creation of thousands more in the long term by accommodating the vital trading needs of corporations that demand more border-crossing capacity.

That’s why Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper joins me in his strong support of the new bridge. That’s also why the NITC enjoys the support of each of my living predecessors — William Milliken, James Blanchard, John Engler and Jennifer Granholm.

A number of factors helped shape the opinions in support of the bridge for key business and government leaders on both sides of the border:

  • The bridge will not cost Michigan taxpayers a cent. The Canada-U.S. agreement allows private and Canadian investment in Michigan infrastructure without exposing Michigan taxpayers to any risk. The project enables user-fee financing with the Canadians repaid through tolls.
  • The new crossing will reduce border delays, which cost big money. In an age where just-in-time delivery is the norm, border delays matter. One economic study concluded that with auto components crossing the border five to seven times during assembly, delays can easily add $800 per vehicle to the cost of production.
  • A second crossing is vital to security. A second, “redundant” crossing a safe distance from the other bridge is essential to insuring that goods continue to move if one bridge were to be closed due to unforeseen events. With one bridge, such an event would shut down factories and cripple economies in Michigan and Canada.
  • The Ambassador Bridge enjoys no freeway-to-freeway connections in Canada. That means trucks in Canada travel more than seven miles on a commercial street, encountering some 18 stop lights, the only stop lights between Montreal and Mexico City.
  • The bridge allows Michigan to leverage up to $550 million in Canadian funds to match more than $2 billion in federal highway dollars. Even if you think the bridge won’t affect you, your highways and bridges will benefit.

A second crossing operated by private industry will add more capacity for the transport of commerce and ensure free-market competition.

Just 41 nautical miles southeast of Detroit stands the tallest U.S. national structure between the Washington Monument and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Perry’s International Victory and Peace Memorial, dedicated in 1931, now commemorates 200 years of peace between the U.S. and Canada.

When the NITC is complete, the structure will join the Perry Memorial and other magnificent icons in Canada and the U.S. that symbolize the peace and prosperity shared by these two great nations.

That ongoing peace has fostered the greatest international trading relationship in history. The NITC will ensure that Michigan continues to be a vital contributor and beneficiary of that partnership.