The Center of the Blue Economy

8 Nov 2013


Astronaut Karen Nyberg tweeted this photo of Michigan and the Great Lakes from aboard the International Space Station on Oct. 13. (Courtesy Photo | Karen L. Nyberg)

The Governor’s office recently requested a White Paper relating to the so-called “blue economy.”  We here in Michigan have always known about our Great Lakes (and yes, I know they don’t belong to Michigan but they define us – if you don’t believe me – see the photo).

The White Paper was released this week and it notes what most of us would think of as the big four uses of water here in Michigan:

  • farming;
  • factories (energy);
  • shipping; and
  • leisure use.

The White Paper recognizes these (noting that water is responsible for nearly a million jobs and $60 billion in the Michigan economy) and also discusses water technology businesses, water research, modeling sustainable water uses and making water a long-term platform for sustainable growth.  The thought that Michigan with its abundance of riches (20% of the world’s fresh water!) is pursuing businesses and policies that will be based on the scarcity of clean fresh water is impressive as it normally seems that places without much water focus on shepherding it.  The focus on innovation, research, manufacturing and entrepreneurship is refreshing (perhaps a tad late, as other states and Canada are also focusing on this).

Also interesting to me is the White Paper’s silence on hydro-power or wind-power driven by the lakes (although that may be the focus of another of the Governor’s initiatives – a point I will discuss in a later blog post).

There is a delicate balance between the various uses of the Great Lakes and concerns regarding lake levels and invasive species that often pits farms and factories against shippers and against leisure users of the lakes.  I commend the Governor on beginning the process and trying to focus businesses and researchers on something that we here in Michigan often take for granted because of the abundance of riches we have.

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