The binational shipping industry on the Great Lakes supports almost 238,000 jobs between the United States and Canada and brings in $35 billion annually, according to a new economic impact study released Wednesday.
The study, sponsored by the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership, uses a plethora of charts and data to illustrate the 2,300 miles of seaway between the westernmost port of Duluth-Superior and the Atlantic Ocean as a vital economic driver.
"This report validates what we've long known - that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway is crucial to the U.S. economy," said Craig Middlebook, deputy administrator of the U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation in a news release about the study.
The 126-page report is designed to be consulted by planners, policy makers and the commercial maritime community, in addition to the general public, it said in a purpose statement found within the study. Public and private entities across the Great Lakes retained a Pennsylvania consulting firm, Martin Associates, to conduct the study - the first such study in seven years. The study uses both U.S. and Canadian dollar figures throughout - a critical piece of interpretation, said spokesperson Adele Yorde of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
"It's just a great tool so we have all the same apples when you look across the system," Yorde said. "It's a nice assessment - a snapshot in time of the commercial maritime industry. ... We do get asked a lot, 'What value is there to Duluth and the maritime industry?'"
A companion study delving deeper into the port of Duluth-Superior is expected to be released by the local Port Authority in the coming weeks, Yorde said.
For now, numbers pulled from the broader study show such things as Minnesota gains 6,161 jobs from Great Lakes shipping, and that taconite iron ore remains king. More than 64 percent of what moved through the system at the Soo Locks on the eastern end of Lake Superior was iron ore - 44 million metric tons in 2017.
"The St. Lawrence Seaway is ... the longest deep draft navigation system in the world," said the news release. "North American farmers, steel producers, construction firms, food manufacturers and power generators depend on the system to move raw materials and finished products including iron ore, coal, stone, salt, sugar, grain, steel, wind turbine components and heavy machinery."
All told in 2017, 143.5 million metric tons of cargo (valued at $15.2 billion) moved through the Great Lakes system in 2017, the study reported - a figure that leapt to 230.9 million (and $45.6 billion) when ocean-going trade through the St. Lawrence Seaway was incorporated. Additionally, the Great Lakes seaway industry generated $6.6 billion in taxes for the federal, state/provincial and local governments of U.S. and Canada.
Said Steven Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association: "The study reflects the enormous contributions the maritime industry provides to the more than 100 ports in each of the Great Lakes states and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec."
Anyone can reach the study link by visiting: greatlakesseaway.org/economy