(WINDSOR, ON) – A report presented to the Francis Council for its December 7 meeting, on what to do about regional economic development, hardly mentions diversification. Prepared by consultants from some 500 kms away, to help councillors figure out what to do with the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation (WEEDC), it does nicely expose the problems with the way development is handled locally.
However, it is hard to understand how the consultants missed the city’s infamous failed mayor, Eddie Francis, often self-congratulating himself for the way he was going about diversifying the economy.
On June 7, 2013, the CBC had him, bold as brass tacks, bragging he would put his, “… strategy against any other city’s economic strategy.” It was a nice sound bite.
But, would Francis really put his approach against London’s? The results speak for themselves.
The consultants remember that, in 2013, London gained $110 million in new manufacturing investment which brought 1,700 new jobs to the forest city. Windsor, following the self-praised style of Francis, generated $10 million in new manufacturing investment, and a meagre 84 jobs.
Incidentally, London did it with four less staff than Windsor.
The bravado of Francis also included him insisting his, “… focus needs to be on economic diversification.”
Apparently, no one was paying attention.
The consultants found in 2014, 80% of WEEDC’s effort was, “… put into BRE [business retention and expansion] vs. attracting new business.” Obviously, Francis failed to diversify the economy and, apparently, to even convey his objective to the neophytes at the development office.
Now, with the consultant’s report as his guide, it will be convenient for ineffective councillor, and now interim mayor, Drew Dilkens to carry on and not diversify the economy. In fact, the consultants actually argue investment attraction, “… is viewed as a zero-sum activity, as localities offer competing marketing outreach programs to attract these same companies.”
In simple terms, the consultants are really saying Windsor is not competitive when it comes to attracting new investment so shouldn’t pursue such nonsense.
This is mostly because of Council’s failure to do anything about its high taxes and surcharges, and now its planned levies.
Trying to attract new investment leading to a diversified economy, calculate the consultants, produces a, “… rate of return [that] is also generally lower than other economic development activities, a significant effort is expended that often does not result in successful outcome.”
In short, it is simply too much work.
This might be good advice, given Windsor’s approach to taxing anything that moves is a disincentive anyway.
Another complication with going after new companies is it requires skills not available locally. The consultants reckon there is, “… great effort put forth on seeking to attract specific companies, which involves bespoke marketing and outreach.”
With abecedarians staffing the development office, it can be assumed the ability to do creative, custom work is well beyond their level of capability. The solution, of course, is to dump them and hire people with the correct skills and creativity.
Council will sort of do this by hiring 2.5 new employees of its own to, basically, support the past mistakes of the Francis Council.
On page 34 of a 61 page document, the consultants recommend the city direct its resources to, “… support economic activities around the Windsor airport lands relating to the Cargo Hub.”
In a city with very high taxes, this is hardly appropriate.
PayScale.com says the average wage for a material handler is $16.10 an hour; better than minimum wage, but not by much. It is certainly not a valid reason to forget about finding high paying factory positions.
However, politically, it means concentrating on turning the pig’s ear, of the failed dream of a cargo hub at the airport, into a silk purse.
Given the clues in the consultant’s report, the good money is on future economic development being restricted to shoring up the legacy of the past failed mayor.
All is well in Windsor, just as it should be.
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.