Canada’s counsel general makes pitch for new bridge — in dollars and sense

Crain’s Detroit Business

By Matthew Gryczan

GRAND RAPIDS — His tone was polite and understated, but his words to Michigan voters were direct: Don’t be “held hostage or made small in your thinking” by the “cynical, manipulative and greedy” private interests of Manuel “Matty” Moroun, avowed foe of the proposed new Detroit River bridge supported by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The strong words Wednesday afternoon from Roy Norton, the Detroit-based consul general of Canada, brought an equally strong applause from the audience of at the West Michigan Policy Forum in downtown Grand Rapids.

The lion’s share of Norton’s 15-minute speech outlined the basis for building a second bridge linking Detroit and Windsor — arguably the most important commercial bridge crossing in the world. More than $120 billion worth of goods passed over the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge last year, which Norton referred to as a choke point with a life expectancy of only 50 years when it was built.

Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge, has launched an expensive public relations campaign, under the umbrella organization The People Should Decide, to persuade Michigan voters to approve ballot Proposal 6 in the November general election. The proposal would change the Michigan Constitution to force statewide votes on whether new bridges or tunnels should be built with Canada.

Others who took the podium at the conference — Wolverine World Wide Inc. President and CEO Blake Krueger and Continental Rail Gateway executive Marge Byington-Potter — echoed Norton’s messages.

“From a business perspective, … the bridge is a no-brainer,” said Krueger, who oversees the Rockford-based company — which soon may become the world’s third-largest footwear manufacturer if it completes its acquisition of Collective Brands Inc.

“If this was a business decision — not tied up with politics — this decision would have been made two years ago, and we’d already have a head start on the project,” he said.

As one example, Krueger said Wolverine World Wide services its Canadian businesses from its Rockford headquarters and warehouses in West Michigan to the tune of more than 2.2 million pairs of footwear annually.

Potter, executive director of corporate affairs for Continental Rail Gateway — a coalition of the Windsor Port Authority, Borealis Infrastructure and the Canadian Pacific railroad — said plans to build a high-clearance replacement rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor under the Detroit River — replacing the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel — would be halted if Proposal 6 passes. The tunnel would replace the existing twin tunnels with a single tunnel that can accommodate double-deck railcars.

About 460,000 rail cars annually pass through the existing 102-year-old rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor.

Under an agreement signed by Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June, Canada would pay for the estimated $1 billion bridge — known as the New International Trade Crossing — and assume all liability for its construction, recouping its investment through collection of tolls. When it has recouped its investment, Canada then would share tolls with Michigan, similar to the way that Michigan now shares toll revenue with Canada from the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, which the state built in the early 1960s.

It’s clear that there is much would be gained from having a new bridge, Norton said.

“We do more trade with Michigan than any country in the world except the United States as a whole,” he said. “Half of everything Michigan sells to the world is purchased by Canadians. We are by far your best customers. That includes almost a third of all agricultural products raised or grown on farms in Michigan.”

That trade amounted totaled about $70 billion last year, and Canadian trade has a substantial impact on West Michigan. Norton said that about $2.8 billion of last year’s trade came from U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga’s district, about $1.9 billion from U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s district and about $1.4 billion from U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s district.

The activity generated 69,300 jobs in the three congressional districts, with almost 19,000 in Kent County, about 5,000 in Ottawa County and 3,000 in Muskegon County alone.

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Construction of new bridge vital to state’s economy


Daily Tribune

Gov. Rick Snyder announced his support for construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

We’re glad see some positive news about a project that will help the state. It’s needed to balance a very negative ad campaign under way over the past couple of months that has tried to stop the new bridge. The ads claim that construction isn’t in the best interest of the public. In reality, the only one whose “best interest” will be affected is the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge, 84-year-old Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who is financing the public relations blitz.

Over a year ago, we expressed support for the new bridge and we haven’t seen any data to change our minds.

The campaign against the new structure is slick, well written and excellently executed. Moroun appears to be getting his money’s worth. We just hope he doesn’t get his way.

At best, the campaign is misleading and, at worst, it is a deceitful attempt to denigrate a project that truly would benefit Michigan.

In a news release, Snyder outlined some reasons why a bridge is not only desired but needed. He notes that trade with Canada supported 237,000 Michigan jobs; commerce between Canada and Michigan grew to $62 billion, which is a 42-percent increase over 2009; Michigan and Canada are each other’s largest trading partners; and Michigan exports more goods to Canada than any other state.

The economic numbers involved are staggering. The bridge would bring an estimated $1.8 billion in investment to the Detroit-Windsor area, create 10,000 construction jobs in Michigan and generate another 30,000 indirect jobs in Michigan and Windsor. Also, the Canadian government has offered to pay the $550 million cost of the work. Once constructed, its operation is expected to be supported through tolls. In addition, once financing is in place, the state would be in line for funds from Washington.

The project has the support of Chrysler, General Motors and Ford auto companies. Other advocates of the New International Trade Crossing, formerly called the Detroit River International Crossing, include Toyota, Honda, automotive suppliers, West Michigan businesses, including Amway, Steelcase, Meijer and Wolverine World Wide Inc., chambers of commerce from Marquette to Muskegon to Detroit and statewide business and agri-businesses, including the Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Manufactures Association and Business Leaders for Michigan, labor unions, including the Michigan AFL-CIO, and political leaders across the state.

Considering the overwhelming support, it is amazing and sad that Moroun has managed to hold up the project.

We understand his desire to maintain his monopoly on local bridge crossings but figures indicate he will ultimately also benefit. It’s not as though the new bridge will put him out of business.

What’s needed now is for the state Legislature to pass the enabling laws that will allow the Michigan to contract with Canada and get the new bridge constructed.

Last year that legislation was stalled. This year, we hope our Lansing leaders look past a billionaire’s money and do what’s right for the state.

Bridge to economic growth?

Canadian official says Southwest Michigan would reap financial rewards from a new bridge from Detroit to Canada

By MARK FONTECCHIO – H-P Correspondent

ST. JOSEPH – Canadian Consul General Roy Norton subscribes to the notion that “if you build it, they will come.”

What Norton is talking about is a proposal for a new international bridge connecting Canada to Michigan across the Detroit River. And even though the bridge would be on the other side of the state, Norton maintains that the economic benefits would reverberate in Southwest Michigan.

That is what he told local business leaders from the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce and Cornerstone Alliance during a luncheon meeting at The Bistro on the Boulevard Friday.

“The bridge doesn’t get talked about as much here,” he said. “You don’t look out your window and see Canada like they do in Detroit, but it’s still important.”

Norton said the new bridge, which he called Canada’s top infrastructure priority, would strengthen trade, transportation and infrastructure growth throughout Michigan.

He pointed to several connections that Southwest Michigan has with Canada. For example, Norton said that almost 7 percent of Whirlpool’s global revenue is from sales in Canada. According to the Canadian Consul General office, about 4,500 jobs in Berrien County depend on trade with Canada. They include jobs at local companies such as New Products Corp. in Benton Harbor and Bosch Braking Systems in St. Joseph.

Other companies based in western Michigan – Meijer Inc., Amway Corp., Steelcase Inc., Kellogg Co. and Wolverine World Wide Inc. – have publicly supported the project.

After the luncheon, Norton was planning to visit with Whirlpool executives in the hope of getting their public support. Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Pat Moody added that the chamber may vote in the near future on an official declaration of support for the project.

In his State of the State address in January, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder backed construction of the bridge, once called the Detroit River International Crossing and now called the New International Trade Crossing. The project is estimated to cost $4 billion, with much of the bill being footed by the Canadian government. That includes $550 million that the Canadian government has offered to contribute for Michigan’s share of the project.

State officials say the project would create no new debt for the state and no new taxes in Michigan. If approved soon by the state Legislature, it could be completed within five years.

There is an existing bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor – the Ambassador Bridge – which is almost a mile and a half long. Its owner is opposed to the proposed new bridge and has sued the governments of Canada and Michigan to stop the project but thus far has failed in that attempt.


Gongwer News Service

Some of the largest companies in western Michigan said Tuesday they supported efforts by Governor Rick Snyder and others to win agreement on building a new Detroit River International crossing.

In a statement, Mr. Snyder’s administration said the support showed the potential impact the new bridge, which the administration wants to relabel the New International Trade Crossing, could have on business throughout the state.

Announcing their support for the DRIC were top executives of Meijer Incorporated, Amway Corporation, Steelcase Incorporated, Kellogg Company and Wolverine World Wide Incorporated.

Mark Murray, president of Meijer and a former state treasurer, said a new bridge “will be a solid boost for the state’s economy and its people. It helps us build on strengths this great state already has.”

The proposed new bridge would be located several miles downriver from downtown Detroit, and several miles from the Ambassador Bridge.

Efforts to win approval for the bridge were blocked in previous legislative sessions as many Republican members objected to any potential cost to the state for a new bridge while the owners of the Ambassador Bridge have said they want to build a new bridge on their own, with their funding, next to the current structure. Final approval for that bridge has not been given by any government, however.

Canadian officials have made plain their preference for the DRIC, and have offered to front some $550 million for construction of ramps and roadways to a new bridge, and be repaid from toll revenues.

Mr. Snyder announced last month as part of his State of the State address that he had won agreement from the U.S. government to use the $550 million as part of the state’s matching funds for full funding of federal highway and transportation funds.

Mr. Snyder had said a new bridge would be important to the entire state’s economic development, and James Hackett, Steelcase president, said a new bridge will help cut down on congestion that can now slow up industrial traffic from the two countries. “The construction of an additional bridge between Michigan and Canada will provide immediate value to Michigan companies doing business with Canada,” he said.

West Michigan businesses support New International Trade Crossing

February 15, 2010

LANSING, MI – Demonstrating that the need for an additional bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario is an issue of statewide economic importance, leading West Michigan businesses today announced their support of the New International Trade Crossing.

Meijer Inc., Amway Corp., Steelcase Inc., Kellogg Co. and Wolverine World Wide Inc., emphasized the benefits to West Michigan and the entire state.  The proposed crossing is a public/private partnership with Canada that opens the door to more global exports from Michigan while creating no new debt for the state and no new taxes for Michigan taxpayers.

“This plan for a new International Trade Crossing will be a solid boost for the state’s economy and its people,” said Mark A. Murray, president of Meijer Inc.  “It helps us build on strengths this great state already has.”

Governor Rick Snyder has secured an agreement with the federal government that allows Michigan to count $550 million Canada has offered to contribute to the project toward Michigan’s federal match for road funds.  This will leverage as much as $2.2 billion in federal highway funds for Michigan to be used for statewide road repairs and infrastructure improvements.

“For decades, Steelcase has been proud to serve the Canadian market. During 2010, we moved several hundred truckloads of product from our plants in West Michigan to our customers in Canada,” said James P. Hackett, Steelcase Inc. president and chief executive officer. “We do everything we can to reduce the time spent in the border crossing process, including compliance with provisions of the U.S. Customs and Trade Protection Act that allow our trucks to enter in the fast lane at the border. But passing through customs is only part of the problem. Traffic volume has outpaced the capacity of the current system, leading to congestion and delays. The construction of an additional bridge between Michigan and Canada will provide immediate value to Michigan companies doing business with Canada.”

In addition to establishing Michigan as a hub for global commerce, the project will help fuel Michigan’s economy by generating an immediate demand for 10,000 construction jobs from across the state.

“For more than 50 years, Wolverine World Wide has been marketing its brands in the important Canadian market,” said Blake W. Krueger, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Wolverine World Wide Inc. “Commerce with Canada continues to be a cornerstone of our brands’ businesses, including Hush Puppies, Merrell, and Wolverine.  A new international bridge to Canada would enhance our ability to serve this vital market. Our company offers our full support to Governor Snyder and this important initiative.”

“As a Michigan-based global company, Kellogg fully supports the proposed New International Trade Crossing,” said John Bryant, president and chief executive officer of Kellogg Co.  “This initiative will enable Kellogg to better meet the needs of our North American business and consumers.  Additionally, it reinforces the important collaboration between businesses and Governor Snyder, our legislators and others working to help restore the Michigan economy.”

Support for the project is widespread.  Proponents include Michigan’s auto industry, a broad range of agricultural groups, leading newspapers, business and university executives, municipal and transportation leaders, and former Governors William Milliken, James Blanchard, John Engler and Jennifer Granholm.

“With the New International Trade Crossing, the Michigan and Canadian governments are taking a sensible and much-needed step to increase trade between our two countries,” said Doug DeVos, president of Amway Corp.

Steve Van Andel, Amway Corp. chairman, added: “We strongly support this initiative, which will make Michigan more competitive.”