A paragraph or two a day from my forthcoming book FROM A TO B: HOW LOGISTICS FUELS AMERICAN POWER AND PROSPERITY:
The Paul R. Tregurtha and her beleaguered crew, the port of Superior, the St. Clair power plant, the coal it burns, and the auto plants it powers are all nodes in a time-worn logistical network that underpins America’s industrial heartland. We might build fewer cars than we did just a few years ago, but manufacturing — cars, in particular — still accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and around 10 percent of American jobs.
Manufacturing as a percentage of GDP hasn’t much changed in almost thirty years; it’s not likely to budge any time soon. We will keep building lots of stuff, and we’ll build much of it in the historically industrial states ringing the Great Lakes. We’ll do it because of the Great Lakes and the fast, cheap transportation the Lakes afford.
There’s a downside to our enduring reliance on the Great Lakes — and that’s winter. Every year between late December and late March, the lakes mostly ice over, rendering most ship movements impossible. Global climate change hasn’t yet altered the frigid clockwork of the traditional nine-month shipping season.