Back on December 2, the hapless Windsor mayor, Drew Dilkens, opened up some pretence about him ready to bring 350 jobs to the city. It seemed, at the time, just another of the series of ghost announcements that have marked his territory as mayor.
These ghost announcements are made with great bravado about companies soon to arrive and create many jobs. The companies, of course, never set up shop, but Dilkens does manage to get considerable publicity from a non-suspecting media who take his porridge cold.
However, this one, say pundits, seemed to have had some skin on its bones, so to speak. They calculate the company he was talking to was none other than world famous General Electric (GE).
Last summer, GE announced a plan to relocate a gas engine plant from Wisconsin to Ontario. The tip was the plant would employ 350 workers, which made it easy, for the sharp minded pundits to put two and 350 together, to suspect Dilkens was talking about GE.
However, from the get go, they knew Windsor was simply not fit for GE and the reasons should be scary to taxpayers.
Ironically, the new ultra-modern plant will go to the same area General Motors picked when it decided to relocate its transmission plant from high tax Windsor. In that instance, it moved to St Catharines.
GE will relocate its new plant to Welland.
In the CBC report, Dilkens lamented that a main hurdle in getting the mystery plant was, “… the cost of hydro.”
Pundits knew right away that he was trying to find a scapegoat to defend himself for losing GE. Hydro seemed to be a good issue, although hydro rates are similar across the province. Property tax rates are not and it is here Welland has a slim advantage, but an advantage nonetheless, particularly for a large taxpayer like GE.
Hopefully, taxpayers will finally get it through their thick skulls that the Francis Council’s reign of high taxes and its big joke of holding the line, when it should have been lowering taxes, is not helping the community.
How many more lost opportunities will it take?
Of course, local taxes have to be high so the city can afford to help out a foreign swim meet.
According to a June 1 Globe and Mail report, the reasons GE was attracted to Welland sound a lot like the platitudes the local economic development outfit tosses out to promote Windsor and the region.
The company said it chose Welland because of its proximity to the U.S. border and access to skilled workers. It also cited Welland’s ‘aggressive’ efforts to attract business.
It seems Windsor is not the only location with a lock on being close to the border and with a skilled workforce. But, what is more disappointing, and this should be a major concern to taxpayers, is that the local region is handicapped by having an abecedarian run its economic development efforts.
The interim CEO of Windsor’s lacklustre economic developers, Rakesh Naidu, told Blackburn News, on September 30 last year, that as soon as he heard the news, “… he reached out to his contacts in the provincial and federal government to see how they can help Windsor-Essex make its pitch to the U.S. giant.”
Apparently, Naidu did not understand that in such cases the provincial and federal governments are neutral. It is not their job to do his job. He should have been moving mountains to get a hot ticket like GE.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at noon every Thursday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. It is also streamed online at CJAM.