GUEST COMMENTARY: Drop Rust Belt reference, use Opportunity Belt now

2014-05-02T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Drop Rust Belt reference, use Opportunity Belt nowBy Betty Sutton
May 02, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Connected to our biggest trading partner, Canada, and to the rest of the world through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes states are our nation’s manufacturing and agricultural powerhouse.

Taken as a whole, the economy of the eight Great Lakes states and the two Canadian Great Lakes provinces represents the fourth-largest economy in the world, behind only the United States, China and Japan.

From being the cradle of the auto industry to the birthplace of aviation and numerous medical, scientific, and engineering advancements, the area not only has a rich past, but a present characterized by innovation and discovery. In light of all that, this dynamic region contributes to the strength of our nation.

It is past time to consciously drop the “Rust Belt” label. Referencing the area as the “Opportunity Belt” would be far more worthy of the area, our people and our future.

There is just so much opportunity in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes and Seaway basin possess economic and natural assets that are the envy of the world. We are uniquely endowed with resources that allow us to reach for new opportunities.

Those opportunities are becoming more evident in the world of maritime transportation. Ships are moving essential materials to more than 100 million people in the region, more than one-fifth of the continent’s population. The Great Lakes Seaway System tends to fly beneath the radar for the general public, but it shouldn’t. It contributes to businesses accounting for more than a third of North America’s gross national product and provides a marine highway from the Midwest to the Atlantic Ocean.

The construction, agriculture, and steel industries are some of the critical industries that depend daily on the binational waterway to supply materials. The Great Lakes Seaway System makes it possible to move coal that generates heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer for millions of people. It allows for grain from the heartland of the country to move to destinations across the globe. It is the path for windmill parts to provide a new energy source. It is, in short, a pathway to opportunity.

As administrator, I am determined to support and encourage greater economic opportunities for the people and businesses that depend on the Great Lakes. To that end, I am working to grow the strategic importance of the Great Lakes region, expand and diversify the economy of the Great Lakes Seaway System, serve as a model of intermodal transportation connectivity and maintain a vibrant domestic and international maritime industry.

Anything we can do to help our region realize these opportunities will help it thrive. We can start with replacing “Rust Belt” with “Opportunity Belt.” And we can keep working together to give us all a reason to continue to say with pride that we work within the Great Lakes region.

Betty Sutton is administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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