A Big Slice of a Really Big Pie

A Big Slice of a Really Big Pie

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system is not only one of the most beautiful regions in the world, it’s also a vital natural resource that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the U.S. and Canada. Even though Indiana only has just 45 miles of Lake Michigan’s 1,638 total miles of shoreline, the Great Lakes system still brings enough commerce through our state to support thousands of jobs. $35 billion worth of activity was generated by the system in 2017, overall. Just how big was Indiana’s share?

We now have an answer. A detailed breakdown of the U.S. states and Canadian provinces that benefit the most from the system was published by Pennsylvania-based Martin Associates, an economic and transportation consulting and research firm. Their report was titled Economic Impacts of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region and was sponsored by an array of maritime-related organizations, including the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (U.S.), the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (Canada), the American Great Lakes Ports Association, and several others.

The report’s authors based their findings on cargo movements at 40 destinations and developed data from interviews with more than 770 individual firms that have 1,105 operations throughout the region.

The Macro Scale

The overall scale of the impact the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system produces on all the various economies involved is simply huge. Here’s a rundown of what was discovered:

  • Cargo Value: In 2017, a total of 143.5 million metric tons (158.3 million short tons) of cargo valued at $15.2 billion moved through the Great Lakes- Seaway system.

    This is somewhat of an underestimation, because a lot of the shipments begin and end within the system, creating economic impacts at both locations. The $15.2 billion figure only accounts for a shipment once.

  • Economic Activity: The marine cargo and vessel activity in the system generated a total of $35 billion in economic activity in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Jobs: Maritime commerce on the Great Lakes-Seaway system supported 237,868 U.S. and Canadian jobs, 78,400 directly. An additional 80,343 induced jobs were supported in the regional economy. 79,126 indirect jobs were supported by $8.0 billion in regional purchases by businesses supplying services at the marine locations.
  • Income: The system supported $14.2 billion in total personal wage and salary income and local consumption expenditures in the U.S. and Canada. The 78,400 direct job holders received $3.8 billion in wage income.
  • Purchases: Businesses involved in activity in the system spent $8 billion on purchases.
  • Taxes: A total of $6.6 billion in federal, state/provincial and local tax revenue was generated by activity in the system.

What’s Indiana’s Cut?

At first consideration, one might think Indiana’s share of those large-scale totals would be fairly little, but the truth is that our economic activity accounts for just about half of the total U.S. figures. Take a look:

  • Cargo:9 million metric tons (29.7 million short tons)
  • Economic Activity: $13.7 billion. To put that into perspective, the total for all U.S. states along the system was $25.6 billion, indicating that Indiana’s share is substantial.
  • Jobs: A total of 66,158 Indiana jobs are supported by the system, 19,518 directly. An additional 19,432 induced jobs were supported in the regional economy, as well as 27,208 indirect jobs.
  • Income: $1.2 billion in direct wages/salaries. Additionally, $2.4 billion in local consumption and $1.2 billion in indirect wages/salaries.
  • Purchases: System-related businesses made about $2.6 billion in purchases.
  • Taxes: $1.7 billion in federal taxes, $623 million in state and local taxes, for a total of about $2.3 billion in taxes.

A Close-Up Look at Two Spots

The report also contained an interesting look at the impact individual portions of the overall system produce in Indiana, specifically the St. Lawrence Seaway itself and the Soo Locks. These waterways form the connection between some of the largest bodies in the system. Even though the Soo Locks is over 400 miles away from Indiana and the St. Lawrence Seaway over 600, they still directly support a lot of Indiana jobs.

  • The St. Lawrence Seaway directly supports 6,175 jobs and creates an economic impact of about $4.6 billion.
  • The Soo Locks directly supports 15,046 jobs and creates an impact of $10.3 billion.

A Pretty Big Cut

Indiana’s cut of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system’s impact is substantial, $13.7 billion out of about $35 billion total shared by eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. That’s almost 40 percent, even though we only have a tiny fraction of the total shoreline. The Great Lakes are, in all their beauty and splendor, a major source through which commerce flows through our state. More so than many of our neighbors.

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Category Features, Logistics