The Brookings Institution is urging the 12 Great Lakes states to band together as a single economic powerhouse. Brookings Institution fellow and Michigan Board of Education Vice-President John Austin says the rust belt states share similar handicaps stemming from their manufacturing heritage. These include job losses, an undereducated population, and segregation. But Austin says the states also share advantages. He says they hold a significant percentage of the country’s power-generating capacity and the world’s fresh water. He says universities in the Great Lakes states have awarded 38 percent of the country’s bachelor’s degrees, and 37 percent of its advanced science and engineering degrees. According to a ranking by Shanghai’s prestigious Jiao Tong University, the region is home to 19 of the top 90 research universities in the world, led by the University of Chicago at number 9. Purdue ranks at 75th and IU is 87th.
Austin argues the states should maximize these advantages by reducing brain drain by allowing in-state tuition at universities throughout the region. He recommends unifying the states’ professional standards and credentialing requirements for the graduates who emerge. Austin says the states could work together on a host of other initiatives, from a region-wide health-care plan to an effort to revitalize the lakes themselves. He says those thousands of miles of shoreline should make the region attractive in the same way the ocean helps draw people to California.
State officials joined area business and civic leaders for a presentation on Austin’s proposed regional compact, but did not take a position on his recommendations.