Almost 300 projects worth more than $7.6 billion are expected to begin construction during the first quarter this year in the Great Lakes region, a 44% increase over the same period in 2006, says Sugar Land, Texas-based research consultant Industrial Info Resources.

With only $840 million in project work expected to begin during January 2007, the year will start slowly. However, spending will ramp up in February with $1.7 billion, continuing throughout the quarter with more than $5.1 billion in projects expected to begin construction in March.

Power projects proposed for the region in 2007 include the $400-million coal-fired 1,191MW power plant SO2 controls installation (FGD) in Wisconsin, the $360-million 300MW to 360MW Two Rivers Windfarm in Illinois, and the $300-million coal-fired, 1,085MW Kyger Creek power plant SO2 control (FGD) project in Ohio. Proposed industrial manufacturing projects include the $700-million automotive machining plant retool in Ohio, the $170-million phase II six-speed transmission line addition in Michigan, and the $137 million nickel metal hydride battery manufacturing plant expansion in Ohio, as well as the $130 million phase II photovoltaic cell manufacturing plant expansion in Michigan. Proposed projects for alternative fuels are also in the works, such as the trio of proposed grassroots fuel ethanol projects in Illinois — worth a combined total of $624 million — which are scheduled to begin construction during the first quarter of this year.

(click here to see Spending Chart)