Economic Evolution in the Great Lake State
12:00 am
Mon April 2, 2012

reWorking Michigan: Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie Work To Expand Canadian Trade

This week from reWorking Michigan, we look at efforts to facilitate international trade at the Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie border crossings.

For the last year, most of the cross-border attention has been paid to the debate over building a new bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

However, things are also happening in Michigan’s other border cities to help businesses in Michigan and Ontario.

In Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie, 2012 is seeing work on unrelated but important ideas to spur economic development at their international crossings.

Officials from Michigan’s border cities recently gathered in Lansing to compare notes at a conference called “Living on the Edge: How Michigan’s Border Cities are Stepping Up.” Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research hosted the event.

Port Huron looks to boost international trade

In St. Clair County, officials are working to develop a joint export program to help companies in the U.S. and Canada learn what it takes to do business at either end of the Blue Water Bridge. American companies have access to help assuring compliance with Canadian law, or the ins and outs of Canada’s taxation system.

St. Clair County Economic Development Alliance chief executive officer Daniel Casey says another thing they’re trying gives Canadian companies a place to work while in Port Huron. The international “soft landing” space is in Port Huron's city hall.

“There’s about 2,500 square feet of space that has been reserved for international companies to locate in,” Casey states. “They can stay there for a day, a week, a month, for free. It’s furnished, it has internet access, telephone systems. They just have to bring their computers. That’s part of it, but the other piece of it is providing resources to those companies to help answer their questions.”

Casey hopes there will be similar space made available in Canadian cities when American companies need it. There’s an agreement to set one up in London, Ontario.

“It’s a cooperative venture,” Casey continues, “so they can push companies to, when they’re traveling into the U.S. and specifically Michigan, they can land in Port Huron, for example, and vice versa. If we have companies that want to do business anywhere in London, Mississauga, even Toronto, this is a location that they can call home.”

Sault Ste. Marie celebrates 50th birthday of the International Bridge

In the Soo this year, it’s all about the International Bridge.

There has long been a friendship between the cities that share a name. The Soo city commissions often meet jointly. They’re formalizing a sister city agreement that might be the first between U.S. and Canadian border cities. They hope President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend a sister cities ceremony.

A series of events this year will celebrate the International Bridge’s 50th year of operation.

Sault Ste. Marie Michigan Economic Development Corporation executive director Kristen Claus says both cities are considering improvements to the bridge. Although owned by the state of Michigan, the bridge is governed by a joint board.

“The Canadian side has proposed their own plaza expansion,” says Claus. “They’ve approved some funding, things like that. For us to be able to react accordingly on our side, about 850 feet of two additional lanes would allow for easier queueing and stacking of some of the commercial traffic.”

Claus says the lane expansion would cost $8 million, and is currently unfunded.

“It’s not a major project,” Clause states, “but what it will do for us will be huge because the ability to queue and move the traffic around will increase the flow exponentially and help with trade, commerce, and tourism.”

Not to take anything away from the Detroit-Windsor crossings and the possibility of a new bridge there, but officials in Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie see themselves as viable options for those wanting to conduct cross-border business.

 

reWorking Michigan examines our evolving economy, as citizens of the Great Lake State explore new ways to make a living and build a future for their families. A project of WKAR NewsRoom, WKAR-TV and WKAR Online.

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