So far this year, the economic development operation serving Sarnia and Lambton County has announced a potential of 845 jobs. A renewable diesel fuel processing facility could create up to 25 jobs. A greenhouse is expected to create as many as 300. A solar energy silicon pilot factory could lead to 500 jobs over five years, and an expanding biofuel plant will create 20 new jobs.
Sarnia has also been picked for a sugar beet processing plant.
These five projects represent an investment in the region north east of Windsor of at least $135 million, which translates into quite a property tax windfall.
On the other hand, the Windsor Essex County Economic Development Corporation has generated five jobs which will bring no tax windfall to Tecumseh.
There is a staff of six at the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership. Windsor’s comparable organization has a staff of 18. There are also separate, additional economic developers employed by some of Essex County’s towns and by Windsor.
Despite all these people working to change the region’s economic prospects, not much is happening beyond an internet survey.
On March 16, the Windsor Star talked to Lee McGrath, who is responsible for business retention and expansion at the development corporation. She explained the, “… survey will ask business owners basic information about what they do, about the business climate, development plans, workforce and community development, and future plans.”
McGrath said the idea came from a collaboration of all the developers and others who were, “… searching for more information.”
It is hard to believe her and her cohorts don’t know what local companies do. In fact, the “basic” information they are seeking is what developers should already know.
It is doubtful their online survey will provide much insight. This is why other economic development organizations carry-out what are known as Business Visitation Programs.
These face-to-face meetings, as Orangeville reveals on its website, consist of a, “… confidential interview in order to obtain comprehensive information on the issues and opportunities facing businesses in our community.”
Windsor desperately needs new economic development; not surveys.
Given its paid development staff are launching their first ever superficial attempt to get to know the region, it doesn’t look good for anything much to happen for quite some time.
Windsor and Essex County have a new man, Stephen MacKenzie, running their taxpayer paid operation. He was said to be quite qualified. Possibly, it might be time for him to step up, show some leadership, and move his organization forward.
Otherwise, it will just be more of the same.