About the Initiative
Launched in 2005, the Great Lakes Economic Initiative (GLEI) focuses on the unique challenges and opportunities faced by communities within the Great Lakes/Industrial Midwest region.1
Since its inception, the GLEI has contributed to increased awareness and action around the shared economic challenges of the Great Lakes region. The Initiative has elevated the region’s focus on critical economic issues through the publication and dissemination of several research and policy reports. And through the development of a large network of public, private, and academic champions, it has garnered unified support for a shared regional policy agenda that will drive economic change moving forward.
Much has changed since the inception of the GLEI, however. First, Great Lakes’ states have endured much of the brunt of the current economic turmoil—exacerbating many of the existing challenges of their older industrial metropolitan areas, and threatening the prosperity of the broader region. Second, the federal government is engaging in the Great Lakes region in unprecedented ways, providing new opportunities for Brookings and its partners to influence policy reform, and help drive real change in the region. The new White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers, for example, is specifically charged with developing an interagency strategy for assisting auto impacted communities, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the FY2010 budget are helping to create jobs, catalyze the green economy, and improve the nation’s infrastructure—all of which have major implications for the Great Lakes region.
Over the next several years, GLEI research and policy activities will closely align with the shifting economic and fiscal trends, environmental imperatives, and political opportunities affecting the region, focusing particularly on the older industrial metros most impacted by the transition of the auto industry. By doing so, we hope to help create a new era of productive, inclusive, and sustainable growth for Great Lakes communities and their residents.
The Great Lakes economic region, as defined and described in The Vital Center
(2006), and The Vital Connection
(2008), consists of all or parts of 12 US states and two Canadian provinces that share a highly integrated regional economy, and a similar economic and social development pattern.