Academic Bill Anderson, a local university professor affiliated with the Federal government-supported Cross Border Institute, was seen in late December running around talking to the media about the multitude of opportunities awaiting Windsor once the Gordie Howe Bridge is built. If one listens to his meanderings, there will be chickens in every pot and a Maserati in every garage.
Anderson, as an academic, can be forgiven for not walking on terra firma and being out of scope with the real world of business.
Those with a better picture of the future are advocating just the opposite of what he is saying, and know they are right because they read a December 25 Financial Post report.
Unfortunately, Anderson seems to believe a redundant bridge can somehow bring Adam Smith type wealth to a border community. In reality, the only thing driving competitive businesses is not second bridges but innovation of a manner similar to inventing better mouse traps.
To be kind, he appears unable to comprehend the invention of a second bridge to compete with an existing one does not generate new wealth. In fact, all it might do is redistribute some of the wealth of the first bridge for a zero sum gain.
No matter what Anderson will tell you, still standing on guard at the border are customs agents who are usually the reason for slowdowns and bottlenecks. This is well known, but there are companies getting around this irritant and they are doing it with only one bridge between Windsor and Detroit.
Anderson needs to take a look at online shoe retailer Shoes.com.
Financial Post reporter Mary Teresa Bitti talked to the company’s Roger Hardy. He told her about e-commerce in Canada being, “… held back by the border slowing shipments from U.S. suppliers into Canada.”
Apparently, Hardy didn’t run down to Anderson’s office and demand he lobby for a second bridge over the Detroit River. Instead his company, “… mastered logistics, neutralizing the border.”
We ran dedicated line hauls. We used algorithms tied to Canadian border and customs so officials knew which products were coming in advance allowing our trucks to drive straight through, as if moving from state to state as opposed to country to country.
Literally, the border disappeared with the company feeding a distribution centre in highly populated Mississauga from a warehouse in Ohio; not Windsor.
Other companies can do the same thing without setting up shop in Windsor. Even local companies set-up elsewhere. Highline Mushrooms, for one, with three farms in the county, has its distribution centre in Montreal.
Because of this, the community should really ignore Anderson. Too often people in his position, financed by government, spend time generating publicity to remind their benefactors they exist.
Instead, Windsor should get real about its position on the border. If people like Hardy can make it disappear, so can others.
The once rosy city should start trying to figure out what types of new, or even old industries, could thrive locally. Admittedly, it is hard work, but it needs to be done, seeing as how it is very doubtful Windsor’s new bridge will prompt much new growth.
One of the reasons is that while the Ambassador Bridge has the largest share of inter-country trade, it only adds up to 25%. This means 75% of ground traffic goes elsewhere and follows embedded trade paths which have developed over decades.
Only a misinformed optimist would think a new bridge in Windsor will cause wholesale abandonment of these well-traveled through-fares.
Anderson would do better by going deep and coming up with innovative concepts and ideas on how to increase the competitiveness of Windsor. So far he seems to be doing self-serving publicity, something that has limited value to the community.
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.