Reporting back on a very positive trip to DC earlier this week with our Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition. It was a busy two days, and our coalition - the 20 of us that participated from various chambers of commerce from throughout the Great Lakes region - left seeing real opportunity to move some initiatives forward that will have great impact on our mega-regional economy.
Overall, our team met with members or staff from 16 congressional offices, including regional representatives from Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin and key committee leadership. Our message focused on two items: (1) passage of a comprehensive, long-term surface transportation bill and (2) implementation of the "Beyond the Border" accord between Canada and the United States.
The good news: everyone seems to be on board with those two priorities. The more difficult part, of course, is getting them done. But across the board we were told as a coalition that what we were doing - heading down to the nation's capitol on behalf of 150,000 business in the region to express the importance of these initiatives - is exactly what's needed to keep pressure on our reps to move them forward. We will continue to do so.
We also had a great meeting with the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer (that's a picture of my colleagues and me at the Embassy), and to no one's surprise, Canada is in full support of our agenda. We were thrilled that our Canadian Consul General Marta Moszczenska joined us on the trip to help hammer that point home.
A couple state issues that we discussed, as well, where federal support is needed include New York's ballast water regulations, and the completion of the Continental 1 trade corridor - both items included in the Buffalo Niagara's 2012 Regional Agenda.
As an organization, we know that these legislative visits - whether they be to Albany or Washington - are key to getting things done on our members' behalf. The dynamic of the Great Lakes coalition, where representatives from three or four different states are meeting with individual legislators talking about the same priorities, carries some weight because we know it's something they don't see often. We're looking forward to an aggressive campaign on these issues in 2012 and will keep you posted on their progress.