Opinion: Bridging interests, bolstering jobs

Sandy Baruah and Janice Forsyth

Around the entire globe, there are perhaps no two nations that share a closer bond than the United States and Canada. We are two nations bound by a common culture and tight economic integration. We refer to each other as neighbors and friends because that is what we are. We rely on each other for economic stability and we embrace each other in times of crisis.

Another example of our unwavering partnership is the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which moved a step closer to full construction with the recent start of the Michigan advance construction. Financed entirely by the Canadian government, this critical piece of international infrastructure will accrue benefits to both nations and especially the economies of Ontario and Michigan.

To understand the importance of the Gordie Howe International Bridge is to understand the scope of the importance of cross-border trade flows:

* The U.S. and Canada are each other’s largest trading partner. Trade just between Ontario and Michigan exceeds Canada’s entire trade with China.

* 45 percent of all Michigan exports are to Canada.

* Several of the most popular vehicles sold in the U.S. are assembled in Canada, including the Chrysler Pacifica, Chevy Equinox and Ford Edge.

* 259,000 Michiganians have jobs tied to international trade.

Dwight Duncan, left, Alfonso Sanchez, center and Tom Middlebrook, hold a rendering of the new Gordie Howe bridge.

But the new bridge is much more than maintaining the growing trade relationship and jobs in the U.S. and Canadian economies. Thousands of high-skill, high-paying jobs will be created for Americans and Canadians during the construction phase. The community-based economic development opportunities that will develop in conjunction with this new binational infrastructure are immense. Additionally, the new bridge will ease the barriers of travel between Ontario and Michigan, making just-in-time deliveries more effective and making it easier than ever for more Ontarians and Michiganians to cross the border for work and recreation.

Our respective chambers of commerce have worked together for years, advancing the cause of economic, cultural and technology partnership. With the development of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, this work has never been more important, and never more in our shared economic interests.

Sandy Baruah is the president & CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Janice Forsyth is the interim president & CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.