(WINDSOR, ON) – For some, the last day of November will go down in history as Revelation Monday; the day the public was provided another look at how ineffective economic development is in the city, and region for that matter.
The first revelation, revealed by Craig Pearson, a reporter at the local paper, in a tweet, had the mayor saying the Windsor Essex County Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC), “… hasn’t spent almost $2 million that he expects will go back to city and county.”
Apparently, this was only found out in the last couple of months, with ineffective councillor, and now interim mayor, Drew Dilkens unable to offer any explanation.
Without question, the explanation is clear.
Neither the mayor nor the rest of the board of directors, who are supposed to supervise the activities of the abecedarians at the development office, are doing their jobs.
Windsor has the highest unemployment in the nation and the developers were supposed to be using the money, given to them by the county and city, to find ways to attract new industry. It is not a department that should be saving money.
The second shoe dropped with information contained in a column published by the local paper. It says, when WEEDC’s chief economic developer, Rakesh Naidu, was confronted about Stratford getting involved in a test of cars able to drive themselves, all he could say was, “It’s early days.”
This comes not all that long after last summer’s debacle when it was reported WEEDC was, reportedly, too late into the competition to win a Volvo or Jaguar plant. That was quite the embarrassment, and one that seemed to seal the fate of former politician Sandra Pupatello, who was in charge of the office at the time, but who later resigned.
This is the same Naidu who lamented, when Cross Country Trailers was looking for a location for a new plant it, “… wasn’t in touch with us and we weren’t aware,” reported the local paper on February 7, 2013. It seemed to say, no one had told Naidu that sitting around waiting for investors to call was not really an acceptable use of his time.
The company eventually moved its job-creating expansion to Blenheim and closed its parts plant in Oldcastle.
At its December 7 meeting, the Francis Council will consider a consultant’s report suggesting it should set up its own economic development operation. It would cost taxpayers more than the approximate $1.5 million it now lavishes on the regional operation.
However, given what is going on, and isn’t happening, the city would be further ahead to simply cut its ties with WEEDC and go it alone. Currently, Leamington is also looking at setting up its own internal department.
With such revelations, it would not be inconceivable for politicians in other jurisdictions to take action to clean up the economic development office. It has been managed by Naidu, who openly makes it known he has no training, experience, or skills in the field, for almost half a year.
In that time, Waterloo Region has found an experienced executive to take charge of its new economic development outfit. This news should be a warning to Windsor because Waterloo will be competing against the hapless Naidu for lucrative new investments.
At what point will the local politicians say enough is enough?
Probably never. And why should they? They get paid whether the city has a robust economy or not. They get paid whether anything is being done to attract new investment or not.
It is a good deal for them, but a very poor deal for the unemployed.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at 8:30 pm every Monday evening and noon every Wednesday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor is broadcast every Monday and Wednesday to the Windsor and Detroit listening area and streamed online at CJAM.