Grand Rapids is geographically divided east and west by the Grand River. Look at a map of our city and you’ll notice that a dozen crossings of various sizes connect our people and businesses — they enable effective commerce and daily life.
This connectivity is important for everyone in Grand Rapids and West Michigan to remember as we look to the ongoing construction of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge between Detroit and Windsor.
Why does a crossing on the other side of the state matter so much to the West Michigan community?
The answer is simple.
Canada is America’s No. 2 trading partner overall, and Michigan has been Canada’s top trading partner among U.S. states every year since 1990. More than 40 percent of the estimated $1.2 billion in daily trade between the United States and Canada occurs at the Detroit-Windsor border crossing.
One in seven jobs in our region is tied to trade. The greater Grand Rapids area is a major global force, with countless companies exporting and doing business with Canada. These partnerships sustain and spur growth and help retain and create jobs and opportunities for Michiganders. Our continued business success relies on strong connectivity.
That’s why the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce was so quick to endorse this project and has been among a diverse group of organizations working to help make it a reality.
That reality is now coming to fruition with the recent Michigan advance construction groundbreaking ceremony that we were proud to be part of, along with Canada finalizing the private partner contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the project.
The Gordie Howe International Bridge is not just Detroit’s and southeast Michigan’s project, it is Grand Rapids’ and West Michigan’s project. It is an immense undertaking that will benefit the entire Great Lakes State.
The added span will help bring new opportunities and new growth throughout West Michigan and around the state. It also will help ensure our companies can continue to compete and thrive in a fast-paced and evolving global marketplace. That, in turn, creates more and better opportunities for our workers and families, and strengthens our local communities.
The Gordie Howe International Bridge represents an important new stitch to connect us all. That connectivity is the heart of a strong economy and a stronger Michigan, from coast to coast.
Rick Baker is the president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.