Blog: Melissa Trustman

Melissa Trustman is the senior director of Government Relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Melissa manages transportation policy and monitors emerging issues that impact trade and infrastructure within Southeast Michigan.

Post No. 2

Moving the Goods 

Borders & Valuable Freight

Visually, anyone can see lots of trucks and people crossing our borders everyday. If there’s a back up, it’s more of a headache than a reminder of how important our daily cargo is to our local economy and to the country’s GDP. It doesn’t make the papers on a regular basis and it’s not something we hype to the nation or even visiting out-of-towners to impress them.   

Conversely, anyone who visits the Port of Los Angeles or Savannah is simply aghast at the huge ships pulling in and out of port on a regular basis.   

While size is impressive, value is what counts. The latest appraisal on the amount of trade crossing our borders in Detroit and Port Huron is over $160 billion. Alone, that number seems pretty impressive. Compared with the Port of Los Angeles, which stands at just over $120 billion and is ranked as the largest water port of entry, it really underscores how important this region is to the country.

While those numbers are amazing, they still don’t capture the 150,000 jobs that result from the existence of our border crossings and the number of employees making the daily trek into our hospitals, universities and automotive companies.  

Transportation Attracts Attention

Even more disappointing than the lack of recognition locally, is the lack of recognition federally. Over the last year, the federal government designated a number of High Priority Trade Corridors, which corresponded to supportive funding. The only recognized corridor even remotely related to Michigan and the trade coming in from Canada was the I-69 corridor…and the dollars paled in comparison to the other corridors. If you look at a national map of trade by volume, our region looks relatively small and insignificant. There are simply massive amounts of goods moving out of Los Angeles into Louisville, Kansas City and Chicago.  

Again, size is impressive, but value makes our GDP. It’s vital for our region to communicate the importance of our border to ourselves, the national business community and the federal government. There might be millions of Barbie dolls, Nikes and pants moving along the east-west corridors, but the products pumping out of Detroit are worth billions.