Great Lakes and the Economy

A Regional Powerhouse

Encompassing eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, the Great Lakes region is an economic powerhouse. For more than a century, the area has been a center for manufacturing, international shipping, and innovative research and development. Today, cities like Chicago, Toronto, and Detroit contribute to a regional economy that supports 107 million residents and, if it were its own country, would have one of the highest national gross domestic products (GDPs) in the world (source).

See this infographic from the Council of the Great Lakes Region for many more details and statistics about the Great Lakes economy. Learn more about the history of economic activity in the Great Lakes from the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Cover for the GL Jobs ReportIn fact, a new report has found that the Great Lakes support more than 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in wages annually, according to an analysis of 2018 economic data.

Related Resources

Many organizations are involved in quantifying and strengthening economic activity in the Great Lakes for the benefit of the region. Find more information on some of them below:

Blue economy

While the value of many human industries can be easily quantified, economists often struggle to attach dollar values to variables like clean drinking water or the impact of aquatic invasive species. The relatively new concepts of “blue economy” and “blue accounting” help raise the economic profile of activities and quality-of-life factors in, on, around, or related to water.

Bringing the value of water and water-dependent activities into the equation helps decision makers allocate resources, prioritize land uses, and better protect water-related values for future generations.

Related Resources