In a City Council committee meeting earlier this week, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce president Jerry Roper joined other local business leaders in stressing how critical it is for Chicago to build a green economy (though in his typical diplomatic fashion Roper called council plans to define “green” “half-baked”). But Chicago isn’t the only place holding these conversations. Roper’s organization recently banded with the chambers of other cities in the Great Lakes region to set goals for rebuilding the Rust Belt through environmental cleanup, natural resource protection, sustainable economic development, and related issues like transportation and border policy–on the northern end of the country. (Moose and hockey jokes aside, Canada is a mulitibillion-dollar trading partner with the U.S., and this region stands to gain or lose the most from the relationship.)

The group recently released an agenda [PDF] it hopes to move on with financial and political support from the next presidential administration; it was spurred in part by a 2007 Brookings Institute report [PDF]  concluding that restoring the health of the Great Lakes may cost as much as $26 billion, but the investment would yield nearly twice that in economic benefits.