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Press Releases

12 Sep


Council of the Great Lakes Region Launches Global Cities Team Challenge Smart Regions Cluster

September 12, 2019 | By |

Cleveland, Ohio and Toronto, Ontario, September 11, 2019 – The Council of the Great Lakes Region, a binational nonprofit established in 2013 to find new ways of harnessing the strengths and assets of the Great Lakes economic region between the United States and Canada while protecting the environment for future generations, has launched the binational Smart, Sustainable Great Lakes Cities Regional Cluster (the “Cluster”) as part of the Global Cities Team Challenge (GCTC).

With a combined GDP of US$6.0 trillion in 2017, the Great Lakes Region, home to 107 million people, would equal the third largest economy in the world if it were a country, supporting over 50 million U.S. and Canadian jobs. As the region’s cities grow and sectors modernize and expand to meet global demands, their long-term prosperity, competitiveness, and sustainability depends heavily on their ability to design, invest in, and implement smart technologies, infrastructure, and data-driven solutions.

The Cluster will provide all levels of government, industry, academia, and the nonprofit sector in the region a unique opportunity to work together to devise a vision and roadmap for accelerating the region’s digital transformation, and to drive systemic change and citizen behaviour in achieving a smart, sustainable future in our cities and key sectors. The member-driven Cluster will also allow the region to collaborate in:

  • Co-developing and testing smart protocols and standards to support the deployment of groundbreaking Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems applications in an open environment;
  • Demonstrating and scaling smart solutions, as well as sharing best practices and lessons learned, in a non-commercial sandbox environment;
  • Taking advantage of shared investment and procurement opportunities; and,
  • Adopting new techniques for measuring and communicating sustainability, from the city-level to the regional and national level.

Defiance, Ohio is representative of many communities facing water quality challenges in the Great Lakes and are an ideal partner for the development of new approaches, which is why the city is leading the first demonstration project under the Council’s regional cluster. A series of demonstration projects to achieve nutrient reduction goals, located in the Maumee Watershed, will highlight Source Water Protection efforts and demonstrate a replicable, scalable means to achieve a prosperous and sustainable future.

Almost 4,000 miles of streams, creeks and rivers empty into the scenic Maumee River, which has the largest watershed of any river flowing into the Great Lakes. The Upper Maumee River is the sole source of drinking water for the City of Defiance and the surrounding residents. With multiple water quality concerns, the city is taking an active leadership role in watershed planning and other collaborative, sustainable development efforts throughout the region.

Agriculture accounts for 72% of the land use in Defiance county. The Maumee River, consisting of seven sub-basins that drain into the western basin of Lake Erie, has been identified as one of the key sources of nutrients leading to Lake Erie algae blooms, with 85% of those nutrients flowing through the City of Defiance. Nutrient loading has been exacerbated by extreme weather events, and research shows that 70-90% of nutrient loading occurs in 10-20% of these wet weather events.


“Achieving sustainability where it most counts, in our cities and sectors, remains a significant challenge, especially in major economic regions like the binational Great Lakes. The new Smart, Sustainable Great Lakes Cluster provides a platform to engage cities and companies in accelerating the adoption of smart, data-driven sustainability solutions that are replicable and scalable in a collaborative, open, and interoperable environment.” – ” Mark Fisher, President and CEO, Council of the Great Lakes Region.

“The Global Cities Team Challenge’s new Smart Regions Collaborative is very pleased to have the Great Lakes Region as an inaugural member. By bringing together stakeholders from all sectors- cities, communities, industry and universities to focus on economic development and continued water quality improvements, the Great Lakes Region will have the players in place to take advantage of cutting edge technologies that can improve people’s lives.” – Jean Rice, Senior Broadband Specialist, National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“Big challenges require broader and more strategic thinking on multiple fronts; we believe that these innovative and collaborative efforts will lead to better outcomes for water quality, not just in Defiance, but throughout the Great Lakes Region. The City of Defiance is dedicated to working closely with the Council of Great Lakes Region and Defiance County in order to protect water quality while supporting the local economy and agriculture in our region.” – Jeff Leonard, City Administrator for Defiance, Ohio.

“As we look at our region and the Great Lakes as a whole, it is important to remember that we are all partners not just State to State, but Country to Country. Looking at the watershed and larger water quality issues, the old method of trying to assign blame and piling on regulation has not produced a desired effect. I see promise in making ‘clusters’ of rural and urban communities working together for positive outcomes in the future. I think it is an honor for the City and County to be working together with the Council of the Great Lakes Region to demonstrate how this team minded framework can work, and can be replicated throughout the region.” – Ryan Mack, Defiance County Commissioner.

About the Council of the Great Lakes Region

The Council of the Great Lakes Region is a binational nonprofit organization that is dedicated to deepening the United States-Canada relationship in the Great Lakes Region. Its focus is on creating a stronger and more dynamic culture of collaboration in harnessing the region’s economic strengths and assets, improving the well-being and prosperity of the Region’s citizens, and protecting the Great Lakes for future generations. It achieves this mandate by conducting evidenced based policy research, connecting diverse perspectives at events like the Great Lakes Economic Forum, and acting as a strong voice for the Region’s varied economic, social and environmental interests.

About the City of Defiance

Defiance sits prominently at the confluence of the Scenic Maumee River and Auglaize River in Northwest Ohio. Defiance has approximately 17,000 residents, is the county seat for Defiance County and the regional center for a six-county area. Recently named as a Best Hometown by Ohio Magazine, Defiance features a revitalized downtown, charming shops, as well as numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation and exploration of a diverse history within a rich park system. Defiance is a Main Street Community, a Buckeye Trail Town, home to Defiance College and growth is in our future.

About the Global Cities Team Challenge

The GCTC is a collaborative platform for the development of smart cities and communities led by National Institute of Standards and Technology, a bureau of U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies including U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), National Science Foundation, International Trade Administration, and National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Contact Information

Mark Fisher
President and CEO / Council of the Great Lakes Region
613.66.2044 /

Jennifer English
MS4 Coordinator / City of Defiance
419.783.4355 /

02 Jul


Council of Great Lakes Region and Pollution Probe Release Report on Harnessing Big Data Analytics to Improve Watershed Protection

July 2, 2019 | By |

TORONTO, July 2, 2019 – Pollution Probe and the Council of the Great Lakes Region are pleased to announce the release of a new report, ‘Water Management and Big Data Analytics: Examination of Opportunities and Approaches to Leverage Data Science, Analytics and Advanced Computing to support Watershed Planning and the health of our Great Lakes’ Ecosystem’.

This report was made possible thanks to generous funding from the RBC Foundation, and the many ideas shared by experts at a workshop convened by Pollution Probe and the Council that explored watershed management and protection efforts on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with RBC on this innovative project”, says Christopher Hilkene, CEO of Pollution Probe. “This report showcases opportunities for an improved approach to watershed management and adaptive decision-making to help ensure that water in the Great Lakes basin is protected”.

The report examines the role of ‘Big Data’ and advanced computing to improve predictive decision-making for the Great Lakes watersheds, in relation to climate change, land use change and other socio-economic trends affecting the lakes.

“Millions of points of data are being collected every minute about our environment, our economy, and how people interact with their city and surrounding environment, from transportation to water use,” said Mark Fisher, President and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region. “By connecting this data and analyzing it at incredibly fast speeds using smart computing technology, we can generate profound insights about what is happening in our watersheds, now and in the future, that will help governments, businesses, and civil society make better decisions regarding economic development, land use, and protecting the environment.”

This report will be of great value to policy-makers and organizations involved in management of the Great Lakes including government, industry, academia and NGOs. New and unique data visualization and decision-making tools, insights and knowledge can be derived using data science and high performance computing. These tools and insights can help policy-makers and other stakeholders better understand the complex factors that cause dynamic changes in the watersheds supporting the health of the Great Lakes, and inform adaptation and mitigation strategies in the basin. By helping improve watershed management in the Great Lakes region, the project will foster greater resiliency and sustainability across the Region.

Download the full report here

About The Council of the Great Lakes Region

The Council of the Great Lakes Region is a binational nonprofit organization that is dedicated to deepening the United States-Canada relationship in the Great Lakes Region. Its focus is on creating a stronger and more dynamic culture of collaboration in harnessing the region’s economic strengths and assets, improving the well-being and prosperity of the Region’s citizens, and protecting the Great Lakes for future generations. It achieves this mandate by conducting evidenced based policy research, connecting diverse perspectives at events like the Great Lakes Economic Forum, and acting as a strong voice for the Region’s varied economic, social and environmental interests.

About Pollution Probe

Pollution Probe is a national, not-for-profit, charitable organization which is improving the health and well-being of Canadians by advancing policy that achieves positive, tangible environmental change. It is a leader in building successful partnerships with industry and government to develop practical solutions for shared environmental challenges.

For more information contact:

Mark Fisher
President and CEO
Council of the Great Lakes Region
613-668-2044 /

18 Jun


Action Plan 2030 to Protect the Great Lakes proposed

June 18, 2019 | By |

Leading Great Lakes Advocates make case for10-year, $100M/year strategy

June 18, 2019- Toronto, ON

Today, following a nine-month intensive study and consultation process, five leading Great Lakes organisations submitted a 10-year Action Plan to protect the Great Lakes (Action Plan 2030) to Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, and shared it with the Honourable Rod Phillips, Ontario’s Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks. The organisations are calling on the Federal Government to invest $100 million per year over ten years to implement the plan, that will serve as leverage to secure matching investments from other levels of government and other sources.

“Canada is working with the United States to protect the Great Lakes,” said the Hon. Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, “Together we can find solutions to complex problems facing the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River including fighting climate change. When we restore and protect our fresh water, we not only secure the health of our environment, but also the health, culture and economy of millions of Canadians.”

Action Plan 2030 was prepared under the direction of an Expert Panel co-chaired by two esteemed environmental specialists, Mr. Gord Miller, former Environment Commissioner of Ontario, and M. Jean Cinq-Mars, Québec’s former Sustainable Development Commissioner. Working closely with experts, stakeholders, and indigenous advisors, they studied new approaches to tackle four complex challenges facing the Canadian portion of the Great Lakes – climate change, toxics and other harmful pollutants, nutrients that contribute to harmful algal blooms, and bacteriological contamination of beaches.

“While progress in protecting the Great Lakes has been made over the years, the combined impacts of climate change, population growth, and intensive farming and industrial activity demands a new approach,” said Expert Panel co-chair Gord Miller, “By targeting sources of pollution having the greatest impact, the Action Plan proposes more strategic and surgical interventions using new kinds of collaboration, technologies and big data.”

The Action Plan to Protect the Great Lakes was inspired by the U.S Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program that has delivered over $2 billion in funding for Great Lakes restoration since 2008 and resulted in a 3:1 return on investment. It is supported by both major political parties in the United States.

“Action Plan 2030 shows us the way forward in Great Lakes protection. Protecting such a vast and valuable ecosystem requires significant and sustained investment like the GLRI on the US side of the Lakes,” said Jean Cinq-Mars, Expert Panel Co-chair. “We need the same kind of multi-partisan leadership and commitment this side of the border.”

The Action Plan to Protect the Great Lakes consists of 15 key actions to protect the Great Lakes and those who live in the region. When implemented, these actions would:

  • Protect Great Lakes shoreline communities and ecosystems that are most vulnerable to high water levels and make them ‘climate resilient’;
  • Reduce our exposure to toxics, by actively identifying and reducing human and environmental exposure to harmful chemicals in the Great Lakes region, in the air, water, ground and in products;
  • Accelerate phosphorus reduction into our waterways that cause harmful algal blooms, by targeting areas or properties that contribute the most;
  • Make contaminated beaches clean and safe by taking action to address sources of sewage and other bacteriological contamination.

“By getting information about our exposure to pollutants in the environment and in products into the hands of communities and individuals, Action Plan 2030 will help us make more informed choices and will drive action to eliminate those sources of pollution,” said Anishinabek Nation Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Edward Wawia, a member of the Expert Panel.

The five organizations, who originally proposed the idea of an Action Plan to Minister McKenna, including the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Council of the Great Lakes Region, Freshwater Future Canada, and Stratégies Saint Laurent, are leading advocates for Great Lakes and St. Lawrence protection, representing diverse perspectives including municipal governments, business and industry, fisheries management, and environmental and conservation interests.

“Mayors and municipal leaders are concerned about the record flooding in many communities, and welcome Action Plan 2030’s recommendations for new approaches and investments,” said Sarah Rang, Deputy Director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

“Home to 1 in 3 Canadians, preserving the health of the Great Lakes is vitally important for protecting public health and the integrity of our natural systems, but also for ensuring our future prosperity as the lakes support a number of key economic sectors and communities in Ontario,” said Mark Fisher, President and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region.

Read The Report

For more information: Nicola Crawhall, Great Lakes St. Lawrence Collaborative, 416-407-5880,


2019 e.Builders Forum in Niagara Falls to Focus on Strengthening Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

May 21, 2019 | By |

The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) partners with the Niagara Global Tourism Institute (NGTI) and the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR) to share contemporary ecosystem building practices, particularly under the lens of multi-jurisdictional clusters and collaboration, diversity, and inclusion.

Niagara Falls, NY – The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), a global network for entrepreneurship centers, will be hosting their 2019 Ecosystem Builders (e.Builders) Forum from October 3-4 at the NGTI’s new TReC incubator in Niagara Falls, New York in partnership with CGLR.

The e.Builders Forum is a two-day conference that features workshops and interactive discussions, led and facilitated by vetted industry leaders, to empower entrepreneurial ecosystem builders with solutions for their communities’ economic growth. The third annual e.Builders Forum will be held in Niagara Falls, New York, in a region that has been renowned for cross-border collaboration across a number of high-growth sectors and its effective approach through private-public partnerships for entrepreneurial development, enabling sustainable economic revitalization. According to Business View Magazine, the collaborative efforts of the Great Lakes’ stakeholders towards infrastructure redevelopment and regional rebranding have driven intentional, environmentally friendly economic renewal for Niagara Falls.

“The binational Great Lakes economic region, shared by eight U.S. states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, is North America’s economic engine and increasingly a global hub of innovation across a wide range of high-growth sectors,” said Mark Fisher, President and CEO, Council of the Great Lakes Region. “The e.Builders Forum presents an opportunity to showcase the region’s innovation potential, clusters, and opportunities for domestic, North American, and global entrepreneurs and innovators to explore the region’s economic advantages and the benefits of connecting to innovation ecosystems on both sides of the border.”

“The NGTI’s partnership with InBIA and the CGLR to host the e.Builders Forum at TReC recognizes the immense potential for economic and social revitalization in Niagara Falls, NY,” said Pat Whalen, Director, Niagara Global Tourism Institute. “Harnessing the strong international brand of Niagara Falls and the global impact of the Great Lakes region, we are elated to bring together thought leaders and industry innovators from around the world. We’re looking forward to learning about best practices and experiences to build the foundation for sustained and equitable growth.”

InBIA Senior Vice President of Strategy & Partnerships Andrea Wesser-Brawner, discusses the intentional co-location of the forum with the Great Lakes’ ecosystem clusters. “The goal of this year’s e.Builders Forum is to showcase how to best do ecosystem development around cluster specialization,” said Wesser-Brawner. “The Great Lakes region has repeatedly demonstrated that they have an aptitude for building cluster-specific ecosystems—specifically healthcare, tourism, and photonics. Our partners provide a wealth of knowledge surrounding replicable, inclusive practices that can create a foundation for an attractive entrepreneurial community anywhere in the world.”

The 2019 e.Builders Forum will explore how to efficiently activate entrepreneurship centers and regional diversity to uplift the entrepreneurial profile of an ecosystem. The first day of workshops will encompass solutions for differentiating an entrepreneurship center in a crowded ecosystem and encouraging diversity and inclusion; there will additionally be a special workshop geared towards developing a variety of tools and skillsets for those who are venturing into ecosystem building. The last day will highlight four different tracks of roundtable discussions for participants to choose from, which are: supporting second stage companies and gazelles, encouraging diversity and inclusion, building industry clusters, and the fundamentals of ecosystem building.

Following the e.Builders Forum, InBIA will lead potential and current ecosystem builders in two additional days of specialty training courses designed to complement the innovation leaders’ newly acquired resources. Some of these courses include Entrepreneurship Center Management (ECM) Course Three: Building Profitable Programs That Serve Entrepreneurs and ECM Course Four: Space Design, Software, and Other Ways to Streamline Operations; an Advanced Mentor Development Workshop, which will be officially premiered in the fall; Building Successful University Entrepreneurship Centers; An Ecosystem Development Workshop: Build Your Community Framework to Accelerate Regional Collaboration; and more.

About the International Business Innovation Association

InBIA is a global nonprofit with over 1,300 members that lead entrepreneurship centers in 62 countries. For over 30 years, InBIA has provided industry best practices through education while enabling collaboration, mentorship, peer-based learning and the sharing of innovative ideas for entrepreneurs across the globe. InBIA is the premier organization for business incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces, and other entrepreneurship centers.

About the Council of the Great Lakes Region

The Council of the Great Lakes Region was established in 2013. It is incorporated as a non-profit corporation in Canada and as a 501c6 trade association and 501c3 public charity in the United States. A binational, non-partisan, member-driven organization, the Council was launched to create a stronger and more dynamic culture of collaboration between the United States and Canada in the Great Lakes Region in order to find new ways of harnessing the region’s economic strengths and assets, improving the well-being and prosperity of the region’s citizens, and protecting the environment for future generations.

About the Niagara Global Tourism Institute

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council recently identified tourism as a key driver for the steadily developing Western New York economy. The Niagara Global Tourism Institute (NGTI) was established in September of 2014, thanks to the financial support of the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board. The impetus for the NGTI’s formation is to foster collaborative partnerships throughout the Western New York community to improve the visitor experience and the industry’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. Utilizing the strength and expertise of Niagara University, the NGTI creates programs concentrated within their 4 pillars of Research, Workforce Development, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (Business Incubation).

For general press-related questions, please contact:

Andrea Wesser-Brawner at
Mark Fisher at
Patrick Whalen at

15 May


The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development and the Council of the Great Lakes Region Announce Partnership

May 15, 2019 | By |

Both organizations plan to leverage their respective strengths, networks, and activities to deepen Indigenous trade, investment, and innovation across Indian Country

Toronto, Ontario and Cleveland, Ohio – The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (The National Center) is pleased to partner with the Council of the Great Lakes Region (CGLR) and work together on ways to strengthen Indigenous trade, investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation across the Great Lakes Region, as well as focusing on building greater inter-tribal business and mobility across the border established by the United States and Canada. The two organizations recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) laying out these goals and the partnership.

Both organizations plan to conduct, advance, and promote policy research and programs that encourage Indigenous trade and business, as well as organizing and hosting regional conferences, developing proposals to securing funding for joint research, programs, and events focused on Great lakes Indigenous issues of mutual interest. In addition, this partnership will work to elevate awareness through their respective publications and online platforms, such as the CGLR’s Great Lakes Ready business portal and the National Center’s Native Edge online business ecosystem.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Council of the Great Lakes Region and are excited to begin working together towards creating greater Indigenous trade between the United States and Canada,” said Chris James, President and CEO of the National Center. “This partnership will allow us to enhance regional collaboration and cross-border integration, creating the opportunity to improve the well-being of Indian Country’s communities, as well as their economic strengths and standings.”

James recently spoke at the Great Lakes Economic Forum in Cleveland, where he outlined some of the challenges and opportunities for cross-border and inter-tribal trade.

“The Great Lakes economic region is a dynamic, international marketplace, and is the traditional territory of numerous tribes whose history and culture are defined by the boundary separating the United States and Canada in the region,” said Mark Fisher, President and CEO of the Council. “Through this unique partnership, our focus will be to deepen inter-tribal trade and investment in the region and support Indigenous entrepreneurs and innovators who are trying to compete and win, not only in the Great Lakes economy, but also around the world with the help of other organizations like the International Inter-Tribal Trade and Investment Organisation.”

For more information:

Mark Fisher
613-668-2044 /

Chris James
480.545.1298 /