There has been plenty of good news for the Great Lakes in all the year end flurry of legislation, and it’s not only about icebreaking, important as that is. The omnibus appropriations legislation now signed into law contained an amended version of a bill introduced by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) to create a new Great Lakes Authority. Conceived by Rep. Kaptur as a federal authority with a structure and mission similar to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the newly established Great Lakes Authority will operate as a federal regional commission dedicated to identifying and advancing solutions to the economic and environmental challenges facing the eight states of the Great Lakes region: Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New York.
The Great Lakes Authority will be empowered to:
- Grow the capacity for successful community economic development by deploying grants to programs focused on workforce skills training, employment-related education, entrepreneurship, technology, and business development as well as for transportation, telecommunications, and public infrastructure projects
- Promote the development of renewable and alternative energy sources as well as resource conservation, tourism, recreation, and preservation of open spaces in a manner consistent with economic development goals
- Provide assistance to severely economically distressed and underdeveloped areas that lack financial resources for improving basic healthcare and other public services
The omnibus appropriations legislation authorizes the Great Lakes Authority to receive – beginning in fiscal year 2024 – the same funding levels as the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission, the Southwest Border Regional Commission, and the Northern Border Regional Commission. Currently, these three Regional Commissions are each authorized to receive $33 million annually through fiscal year 2023. The fiscal year 2024 funding levels for the three Regional Commissions and the Great Lakes Authority will be determined by the 118th Congress.
“The Great Lakes Authority represents a new vision for how to harness existing assets and focus attention and resources to the corner of our nation that makes, builds, and grows America,” said Rep. Kaptur. “As the home of a highly-skilled workforce, North America’s freshwater kingdom, and a growing, innovative hub of manufacturing, energy, agriculture, and defense – the Great Lakes region is poised and ready to capture the future. Through the collaborative work of Republicans and Democrats, our new Great Lakes Authority will serve as a powerful catalyst to strengthen America’s heartland and move us ahead for the 21st century.”
“Great Lakes ports support this legislation and commend Congresswoman Kaptur for her leadership,” said American Great Lakes Ports Association Executive Director Steve Fisher. “By creating the Great Lakes Authority, the federal government can now become a partner in the economic restoration of the Great Lakes region.”
The legislative text outlining the establishment of the Great Lakes Authority can be found here.