Although the jury is still out, early results suggest not much will change in the way economic development is handled in the Windsor region under new leader Stephen MacKenzie. At a recent meeting of the Essex town council, he talked of his staff developing programs for next year.
To be frank, this says his emphasis will continue the office’s traditional fixation on activities rather than results. The naïve Essex councillors seemed to buy it, going as far as thinking the mysterious programs might be a sign of action.
Action is a word hardly used to describe the office MacKenzie inherited.
Over the past decade, about all it has done is bulk up on staff without bulking up on results.
While the Detroit area booms, none of its success is spilling over the border. Oddly enough, the province of Saskatchewan is also booming.
Auburn Hills, Detroit’s northern suburb, has become the darling of the auto industry. Its vacancy rate, reported the Detroit Free Press on November 23, is as low as 1% and new construction of industrial buildings has no best before date.
Motown itself is gaining corporate and industrial advancements Windsor can only dream about.
The Free Press talked of ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks locating in a new industrial park near Interstate 94. Auto parts maker Flex-N-Gate is already operating nearby, lured to Detroit by Ford.
On November 30, the Freep confirmed a rumour that automotive seat manufacturer Adient, a spin-off from Johnson Controls, is moving downtown. A company spokesman told the Press its decision, “… for a corporate headquarters is seen as a high-profile win for the city of Detroit and its efforts to recruit more corporations.”
In comparison, Windsor’s downtown looks pretty downtrodden with plywood clad storefronts and no interest by large companies. All the action seems to be elsewhere in the province and, surprisingly, Saskatchewan.
A June 13 report in the National Post revealed sales in the province’s manufacturing sector, “… have grown by 31 per cent since 2000 compared to about 11 per cent nationally.”
This success is attributed to economic diversification efforts which have attracted, “… manufacturers in automotive, satellite technology, food and beverage and chemical production.”
It might sound strangely out of place to put auto industry and Saskatchewan in the same sentence, but factories there are making everything from recreational vehicles, buses, and ambulances to truck grill inserts and radiator cores.
If Saskatchewan, so distant from Canada’s alleged automotive capital, can do it, why is Windsor’s economic developers so paralyzed when it comes to doing their job?