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UM Study: 1.5 Million Jobs, $62 Billion Wages Tied To Great Lakes

More than 1.5 million U.S. jobs are directly connected to the Great Lakes, generating $62 billion in wages annually, according to a new analysis by Michigan Sea Grant at the University of Michigan.

The analysis, released Thursday, is based on 2009 employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and represents a conservative estimate of direct employment related to the Great Lakes in several industries, according to the authors, Michigan Sea Grant's assistant director, Jennifer Read, and research specialist Lynn Vaccaro.

"Many people don't realize how large an impact the Great Lakes have across many large sectors of this region's economy," Read said. "The total number of jobs and the percentage of jobs by industry illustrate just how critical the Great Lakes are to the region. For example, there are more than 525,000 Great Lakes-related jobs in Michigan alone."

A collaborative effort of UM and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of more than 30 university-based programs.

The two-page economic analysis updates a more extensive Michigan Sea Grant report issued in 2009. That report focused on Michigan's economic ties to the lakes. The update provides figures for all eight states that border the Great Lakes.

The new report looks at the number of jobs connected to the Great Lakes by state and by industry. According to the report, Michigan has the highest number of jobs that depend on the lakes (525,886), followed by Illinois (380,786), Ohio (178,621), Wisconsin (173,969), New York (157,547), Indiana (54,397), Pennsylvania (25,479) and Minnesota (11,877).

Manufacturing was responsible for 66 percent of the Great Lakes-linked jobs, followed by tourism and recreation (14 percent), shipping (8 percent), agriculture (8 percent), science and engineering (2 percent), utilities (1 percent) and mining (1 percent).

Great Lakes vessels transport an average of 163 million tons of cargo each year. Lake vessels can ship goods three times more efficiently than rail and 10 times more efficiently than trucks.

This transportation system sustains manufacturing and steel production, while the clean, abundant Great Lakes waters attract chemical and pharmaceutical companies to the region.

Historically, access to the lakes resulted in a concentration of technical skill, transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. In the coming decades, growth will be less linked to traditional manufacturing and more focused on quality of life and quality of the region's natural resources.

"The quality of our lives in Michigan, and the region, is largely defined by the Great Lakes," said Jim Diana, director of Michigan Sea Grant and professor at UM's School of Natural Resources and environment. "They provide us sustenance, livelihoods, recreation and a sense of place. Unless we continue to protect them and do even more to restore them, we will lose the ability to attract and retain new businesses and talented workers. Restoration of the lakes is crucial to our future."

Great Lakes beaches, resort communities and natural areas support a vibrant recreation and tourism industry and enhance the quality of life for residents. More than 4 million recreational vessels are registered in the region, and people spend nearly $16 billion annually on boating trips and equipment.

Many take advantage of the region's Great Lakes-dependent natural resources, including more than 9.2 million anglers, 4.6 million hunters and 23.2 million bird watchers each year.

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