Assessing the Investment:
The Economic Impact of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

About Assessing the Investment

Despite strong anecdotal evidence that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) helped turn the economy around in many Great Lakes communities, until recently there was no comprehensive study of the overall impact of the program on the regional economy.

A team of Great Lakes organizations worked with the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics to analyze the economic impacts of funding provided by the GLRI between 2010 and 2016, the amount of region-wide economic activity that has been and will be triggered by GLRI investment through 2036, the growth in regional tourism that has resulted due to the GLRI, and the impact of the program on the region’s quality of life as reflected in home values. The research was reviewed by a panel of economists and other experts from outside the Great Lakes region.

In addition, to provide local context for the results, the team developed case studies that describe how regional impacts have translated into real improvements in eight Great Lakes coastal communities.

Assessing the Investment: Case Studies

Eight case studies illustrate how the regional impact of the GLRI translated into local improvements in specific Great Lakes communities. The case studies showed that GLRI leads to significant new real estate and commercial development, particularly in waterfront areas; a resurgence in traditional water-based recreation and the emergence of a new type of tourism focused on kayaking, kitesurfing, and paddle-boarding; improved quality of life, as indicated by willingness to pay more for housing in coastal areas; and increases in the number of young people who are choosing to stay in or relocate to Great Lakes communities.

Project Partners

A team led by the Great Lakes Commission and the Council of Great Lakes Industries coordinated the study. The team included the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes, and the University of Michigan’s Water Center.


Funding for the study was provided by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Wege Foundation, the Fund for Lake Michigan, Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Office of the Great Lakes, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of the Great Lakes.

For More Information

Eric Brown
Senior Advisor for External Relations
Great Lakes Commission
734-971-9135 •

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