The Great Lakes states aren't just key battlegrounds in Tuesday's elections. Fixing their imperiled "Rust Belt" economies and hollowed-out cities may be key to America's 21st century fate.
That's the pointed message of a just-released Brookings Institution report on the mega-region of states and communities that rim the shores of the Great Lakes shores and line the Ohio and Mississippi River watersheds, prepared by John C. Austin, Brookings senior fellow and vice president of the Michigan State Board of Education.
...The new Brookings report envisions something far broader. It urges an array of expanded research and development programs engaging lead regional scientists, a multistate energy independence compact, tapping state and local pension funds for investments in new technologies, multiple billions for restoration of the lakes, high-speed rail networks and more.
How would all this come to be? First, the report suggests, through a Great Lakes compact with the federal government designed to put the region on sound ground in the new economy. And to match that, a concurrent series of compacts and joint initiatives by the neighboring states — possibly a model of how the "megaregions" of America will have to coalesce to position themselves in this century.
Not the usual recipe.