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Economic impact study of GLRI released September 25

A study coordinated by CGLI and the Great Lakes Commission shows that every federal dollar spent on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) projects from the program’s launch in 2010 through 2016 will produce an additional $3.35 of additional economic activity in the Great Lakes region through 2036. The study – which estimates only some of the GLRI benefits – shows that in certain communities, the longer-term impact will be even greater: every dollar spent in Buffalo and Detroit, for example, will produce more than $4 of additional economic activity.

GLRI launched in 2010 and Congress appropriated over $2.5 billion from 2010 through 2017 to fund more than 3,600 projects that have dramatically improved environmental conditions around the region. While the GLRI was intended to accelerate environmental restoration of the Great Lakes and was not intended to stimulate the economy, the study shows that it created or supported thousands of jobs — approximately the same number of jobs per dollar of investment that would be created by a conventional federal stimulus program designed to boost job growth.

The study also shows that GLRI has strengthened tourism in the Great Lakes region. Every federal dollar of GLRI project spending from 2010 through 2016 will generate $1.62 in economic activity in tourism-related industries through 2036. Additionally, the study found that GLRI increased the value that residents place on living in coastal areas: every project dollar spent between 2010 and 2016 produced quality of life improvements worth $1.08 to residents as measured in housing values, leading to an overall increase of $900 million in home values in Great Lakes coastal communities.

Eight case studies illustrate how the regional impact of the GLRI translated into local improvements in specific Great Lakes communities. The case studies showed that GLRI leads to significant new real estate and commercial development, particularly in waterfront areas; a resurgence in traditional water-based recreation and the emergence of a new type of tourism focused on kayaking, kitesurfing, and paddle-boarding; improved quality of life, as indicated by willingness to pay more for housing in coastal areas; and increases in the number of young people who are choosing to stay in or relocate to Great Lakes communities.

Research was led by the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics and reviewed by a panel of economists and other experts from outside the Great Lakes region. The case studies were developed by the Issue Media Group and a panel of Great Lakes stakeholders provided guidance on the scope of the project and helped articulate the outcomes. In addition to CGLI and the Great Lakes Commission, the project team included the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes, and the University of Michigan’s Water Center. Funding for the study was provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Wege Foundation, the Fund for Lake Michigan, Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Office of the Great Lakes, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of the Great Lakes. The study report is available here.