The second Great Lakes Economic Forum will bring together hundreds of industry executives, government officials, leading academics and members of the NGO community who have a stake in growing the economy in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region safely and sustainably while improving the well-being of the region’s citizens.

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From Partnership Flows Prosperity.

The Council of the Great Lakes Region is pleased to host the second Great Lakes Economic Forum, which will be held in Toronto in 2016 at the new Delta Hotel from April 24-26. The Forum, launched in Chicago in 2015, provides an ideal venue for leaders from around the region to share ideas and insights that will help shape economic policy, boost the region’s competitive edge, and secure its long-term success in a borderless global economy. So, if you want to create a more favorable and sustainable business climate in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region, you need to be in Toronto for this event. Other distinct advantages of participating in and sponsoring the Forum include:

  • Connecting with key players from government, business and academia in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region
  • Promoting your brand and message among this elite audience
  • Learning about economic policy issues and cutting-edge research
  • Hear from thought leaders and experts on important issues that will affect the region—and your business
  • Making your voice heard among decision-makers attending the Forum
  • Engaging in a bi-national economic agenda to deepen cross-border and cross-sector partnerships
  • Helping to strengthen the region’s prosperity and sustainability, retain and expand existing businesses, while attracting new investment and jobs
  • Having influence over public policy by developing a unified regional voice on key issues

If it were a country, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region would be the third largest economy and twelfth largest nation in the world.

Built on a foundation of hard work, discovery, ingenuity, perseverance and renewal, the two countries, along with the eight U.S. states and Ontario and Quebec, must seek ways to work together more effectively than ever in today’s aggressively borderless climate of global business and investment — not only to maintain the strategic advantage of this shared economic powerhouse, but to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities in Europe, the Asia and the Americas.

Now is the time to act as one and determine together the economic policies that will expand the region’s reach to global markets, accelerate economic growth safely and sustainably, as well as the region-wide strategies and solutions that will get us there.

Take part in sessions involving influential decision makers, business leaders and experts on issues that are shaping the regional economy today and the challenges that must be overcome to ensure a bright outlook for tomorrow.

The plenary and concurrent panel discussions will cover:
  • The future of customs in an e-commerce world
  • Optimizing and greening freight transportation
  • Planning and permitting transboundary infrastructure projects
  • Using big data to digitize border operations
  • Expanding preclearance to all modes of travel
  • Shifting to a low-carbon economy
  • Growing binational tourism
  • Protecting critical infrastructure in key sectors
  • Improving cross-border interoperability to enhance public safety
  • and much more!

Prominent speakers at the first Great Lakes Economic Forum in Chicago included the Governor General of Canada, the Governor of Illinois, the Mayor of Chicago Mayor, the Deputy Mayor of Toronto, Canadian and US Ambassadors and Consul Generals, Cabinet Members and Federal Officials, and an expansive list of C-Level executives from the region’s key industries.


Established in 2013, the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR) is an independent, non-profit corporation that was created to think strategically about the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region as a bi-national economic region. It mobilizes business leaders, lawmakers, government executives and policy specialists, academia and advocates from non-governmental organizations in accelerating regional economic growth safely and sustainably. The Council achieves this mandate by building innovative partnerships, convening thought-provoking events that stimulate conversations and ideas, conducting insightful research and generating sensible policy solutions.

For more information about CGLR and the issues below, visit

Low Water Blues: An Economic Impact Assessment of Future Low Water Levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River

If future Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River water levels remain near the low end of the historic range for sustained periods, what could this mean for the enormous regional economy that depends on the waterways? A new Mowat Centre study conducted for the CGLR assesses the possible long-term economic impacts on five of the region’s key economic sectors. We conclude that this impact could be considerable, potentially reaching US$18.82 billion by 2050 in today’s dollars.

Modernizing Infrastructure in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region

The McKinsey Global Institute estimated in its recent report, “Infrastructure Productivity: How to Save $1 Trillion a Year”, that keeping pace with projected global GDP growth will require an estimated $57 trillion in infrastructure investment. In the U.S. and Canada, the investment challenge is particularly dramatic. In an effort to eliminate infrastructure deficits and investment gaps in the Great Lakes region the CGLR will lead an effort to modernize infrastructure by enabling regional planning and public-private partnerships as part of a Commitment to Action announced at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America conference in June 2014.

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region Tourism Initiatives

Over the past six decades, tourism experienced continued expansion and diversification, becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. The Great Lakes region is rich in natural beauty, heritage and culture, and has everything it needs to be one of the world’s leading global tourism destinations. The challenge, however, is that no one organization has had the mandate, or the resources, to promote the region as a region. The CGLR, working with government, business, academia and the non-profit community, will develop an approach that promotes the region as a destination and that results in new product development, which would grow tourism on both sides of the border and in turn stimulate economic activity in parts of the region that have been hit hard by the global recession.

Evaluating Energy Use in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region

Within the strong United States-Canada energy relationship, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region is a well-established, strategic energy market and transit corridor for the North American economy in terms of production, distribution, and exploration. Looking ahead, there are important changes taking place in the regional energy market that could appreciably alter energy use in the region as well as the trade in and flow of energy between the two countries. The CGLR is currently seeking partners from all sectors to develop an energy outlook for the region, which would examine the various energy markets in the region, interconnections and trade flows, and investment opportunities with a focus on renewable energy and shale gas developments.

Support for Cross-Border Trade by SMEs

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are critical drivers of growth in the 21st century economy. SMEs are underrepresented in cross-border trade in the region. Capacity constraints limit SMEs’ ability to tackle border regulations and issues, identify appropriate partners and clients on the other side of the border, and access existing government supports. Develop mechanisms to encourage cross-border trade by the region’s SMEs by increasing knowledge-sharing, reducing regulatory and capacity barriers, and engagement with the current round of consultations on Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council.

Mutual Skills Recognition for Regional Workforce Development

A major impediment to labor mobility across the region is certification, as skilled tradespeople require additional/different certification to do the same job in other states/provinces. The CGLR, working with partners from around the region, will conduct a comprehensive analysis of needs and feasible solutions with a view to developing a pilot program to facilitate movement in high-demand sectors including: construction, energy/mining, health care and information technology.

Building Coherence in Regional Security Issues

There are numerous U.S. federal government agencies that operate in the interrelated security, hazards, emergency response, and critical infrastructure space, but there is no effective horizontal coordination among their regional arms. The landscape increases in complexity when Canadian agencies and state/province level agencies are brought into the picture. The CGLR is working to create a forum to convene all government agencies working on security issues in the region to encourage increased coordination and communication.


The Great Lakes region is home to more than 105 million people.


The Great Lakes contain a full fifth of the world’s surface fresh water supplies.


The region’s GDP is USD $5.8 trillion, or roughly 28% of combined U.S. and Canadian economic activity.


The region supplies 46 million jobs, or nearly 30% of the combined U.S. and Canadian workforce.


The Great Lakes Economic Forum promises informative discussions as well as productive networking opportunities that will benefit everyone with a stake in a robust, sustainable economy in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region. Check out the schedule below.

View Full Schedule (PDF)


Thought leaders and decision makers from around the Great Lakes region will ensure lively,
thought-provoking discussion during the Forum.

Kathleen Wynne

Premier of Ontario

Bruce A. Heyman

United States Ambassador to Canada

David MacNaughton

Canada’s Ambassador to the United States

Yves Desjardins-Siciliano

President and Chief Executive Officer at VIA Rail

Great Lakes Ambassadors Gala

The gala dinner is an opportunity for stakeholders in the Great Lakes region to come together and celebrate the diversity and strength of this economic powerhouse we share.

The event will also shine a spotlight on leaders from both sides of the border and all sectors—public, private and not-for-profit—who have made important contributions to success and economic growth in the region.

Register for the Great Lakes Economic Forum




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  • Day 1: Steam Whistle Brewing, The Roundhouse, 255 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario
  • Day 2-3: Delta Toronto, 75 Lower Simcoe Street, Toronto, Ontario
  • 613-668-2044
    416.944.3183 x 222


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For all general inquiries, including press, sponsorship, tickets and registration, or to get more information
about our speakers, please contact us at 613-668-2044 or 416.944.3183 x 222.