A recent MetalMiner post about the long-fought battle over who should build another bridge between the US (Detroit, MI) and Canada (Windsor, Ont.) or whether the bridge should be built at all has caught some folks’ attention. This alone signals the contentiousness of the issues at hand, which seem to mainly stem from (what else?) who will be footing the bill. Matty Moroun, the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge, maintains that governments are trying to forcefully buy him out, while others chafe at the “monopoly Moroun has over cross-border infrastructure and want the US and Canadian governments to build the bridge.
We figured this was worthy of a follow-up post. A recent commenter likely Ed Arditti, who evidently blogs for news-and-opinion site The Windsor Square made a series of responsorial suggestions to the Detroit Free Press articles on the topic to Ëœset the record straight’. Arditti’s implied overall point is a solid one taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook, no matter what deals Governor Snyder tries to strike with Michigan legislators. But Arditti comes from the Canadian, not the US, perspective so of course any aid from Canada is a bad idea to him (not even to mention the ambiguous definition of “loan being thrown around). The important question to consider: whether the state of Michigan, together with aid from Canada, will gain short-to-medium-term economic benefit from private enterprise trade that greatly exceeds the proposed financial investment. $950 million is a chunk of change, a great deal of which Michigan can use to improve existing infrastructure (roads and highways), schools, etc. So the argument there would be, why not have Moroun build his version? Can the private sector do it better and cheaper? Theory says yes; practice may prove differently.
Regardless, jobs should be created either way (although how many long-term jobs there will be is a different story.) Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company, owner/operator of the Ambassador, estimates the new bridge project will create 4,000 jobs within the first year and more than 20,000 over the next two decades, according to its website. Advocates for the government-financed project estimate higher, in the region of 10,000 jobs initially and 25,000 after construction is completed. But would the cost to taxpayers be lower if the private project was approved?
It is undeniable, however, that several important raw materials and manufacturing companies want another bridge to be built. Several have shown their support through letters directly to Michigan’s policymakers: Cliffs Natural Resources (which supports 1,500 jobs in Michigan), American Axle and Manufacturing, Steelcase, Ford Motor, Honda Motor and the International Union of Operating Engineers (whose Local 324 wants a part in building the structure), among others, have a stake in the project moving forward.
The Ambassador Bridge, built in 1929, is composed of 21,000 total tons of steel, including a steel-silicon alloy in the two towers. It’s a hard argument to make, at least for metal producers, other manufacturers and anyone depending on increased US-Canada supply-chain efficiency and growth, not to build this thing. In a time of protracted political squabbling and misinformation, let’s allow companies and their workers to simply build things again.