Over the weekend, the Great Lakes governors welcomed the new month of June with a new commitment to collaborate on two key issues: growing their economies and protecting the lakes.
The governors of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin last met specifically to discuss the Great Lakes in 2005, so they had plenty to talk about. Here at DOT, we have two agencies directly engaged in Great Lakes matters --the Maritime Administration and the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation-- and we're happy to see this conversation get re-started.
The Great Lakes and their careful stewardship are absolutely critical to America. In addition to being the world's single largest source of fresh water, the region generates nearly 30 percent of our nation’s GDP, and about 60 percent of all U.S. manufacturing is based there. The region is also critical to trade. Canada, our largest trading partner, shares these waterways. Hundreds of billions of dollars in cargo pass through this region every year.
The Great Lakes and the Seaway also form one of our best tools for improved competitiveness and stronger growth—a marine super highway that moves goods from point A to point B quickly, safely, and affordably. This saves cargo shippers billions of dollars in transportation costs, and that's good for businesses and consumers.
Nationally, port projects competed successfully for grant funds with highway, railroad, and transit projects during multiple rounds of our popular TIGER program. And the Maritime Administration has awarded grants to small shipyards across the country since 2008, including nearly $9.5 million in grants to 7 small shipyards across the Great Lakes region.
We have also worked with state DOTs to help them get the most out of their waterways. Ohio and Pennsylvania have maritime coordinators dedicated to improve the way we move goods on the Great Lakes. Making water transportation a key component in State Freight Plans and State Transportation Improvement Plans should be a priority. And we look forward to continuing our work with them and to begin working with state maritime coordinators in all of the Great Lakes states.As I told the Council Of Great Lakes Governors on Saturday, their competitors are not the other governors in the Council; they are the rest of the world. So, I welcomed their commitment to collaborate. Now, more than ever, trade is essential to our economic prosperity. And strong trade requires us to coordinate policy and invest in our ports and our shipping industry.
As American manufacturing and emerging energy industries continue to do grow, we know that the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway will continue to be an important resource for businesses and consumers. And we at DOT will continue to work with the region's governors to support this global freight hub.