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Report: Midwest Infrastructure Investment will Drive Economic Recovery

Investing in the region's infrastructure can accelerate Midwest economic growth and contribute to newfound economic advantage across the United States.

President-elect Biden's infrastructure agenda is focused on sustainability, equity, and a clean energy future for the United States. With the right investment, this agenda can reinvigorate the Midwest and support national economic growth, a new report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs argues.

"With unrivaled design, engineering, and manufacturing horsepower in its companies and communities, the Midwest is positioned to lead the way in building out the energy-saving smart systems, high-speed connectivity, and climate-resilient infrastructures demanded in today’s world," author John Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center and nonresident senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said.

The infrastructure agenda for the country—and for the Midwest—must reflect the realities of an economy and society shaped by the longstanding structural, economic, racial, and geographic inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within this frame, the report, "Rebuilding the Midwest's infrastructure: Driving equitable economic recovery in a world reshaped by COVID-19" offers recommendations for investment in five key areas:

  1. Supporting economic growth and vitality in a reshaped post-pandemic world.
  2. Driving economic convergence and inclusion through infrastructure.
  3. Building sustainable and resilient infrastructure for a changing climate.
  4. Enhancing broadband to mark the Midwest as a leader in connectivity.
  5. Modeling sustainable and resilient transport and logistics systems.

Highlights from the report are included below. For more findings, download the full report.

"A renewed infrastructure agenda must focus on pressing areas of need, such as developing climate-resilient and adaptable systems, and work to ensure equitable participation in today and tomorrow’s economy, which has long been the role of infrastructure—narrowing inter-community divides in opportunity," co-author Alex Hitch, a research associate at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs said.

The Midwest has many unique needs and deficits that make investing in infrastructure critical. The region is home to some of the country’s oldest (and, per capita, most expensive to repair) water, transportation, and related systems; a disproportionate share of US brownfields and other residuals of the industrial economy; and a decentralized patchwork of local governments that make implementing coherent and affordable infrastructure solutions a challenge.

However, the region also offers numerous benefits and opportunities that can drive economic performance. The Midwest hosts a robust production base and supply and logistics network supporting growth sectors like medical manufacturing; a myriad of natural resources; top-tier universities and experts; Fortune 500 companies; innovation hubs; and affordable, desirable communities. Connecting these resources and communities to the world can accelerate Midwest and national economic rebirth.

This moment offers a clear opportunity to ensure that a new US infrastructure development plan maximizes each region of the United States' unique assets and economic opportunities. By leaning on these strengths, the plan will accelerate economic growth and spread benefits to more people and places.