Windsor and Essex County’s seemingly inept, at least to outside observers, regional economic development operation keeps losing. Yet there’s nothing, apparently, being done to make the operation accountable.
Without an active, hard-working office, Windsor residents pay a price of lost opportunity, which translates into lost property tax dollars. Most often, however, pitches made by the economic developers are kept secret. There is no exact tally of how many have been lost to date.
But, at times, politicians will let information slip out to expose what the developers are doing. Such was the case with Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens going after a German-based auto parts company. On July 18, the Windsor Star talked of the city competing with one other location, a site in Alabama, for a 300-worker plant.
Five months later, Dilkens still has not announced what happened. He has also not disputed The Square’s report which named Bocar Group as the sought after company. A factory and 300 jobs will land in Huntsville, AL.
At other times, and probably to the chagrin of the developers, the media will expose significant losses. One was a General Electric engine plant lost to Welland. As The Square reported, Windsor was hardly considered, outgunned by a one-person economic development office.
Another case is Cross Canada Trailers.
The company decided not to expand its local operation and instead move to Blenheim. Rakesh Naidu, who is the operations head at the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, famously confessed to the local paper on February 6, 2013, that Cross Country, “wasn’t in touch with us and we weren’t aware.”
It conjured up the image of Naidu sitting by the phone waiting for investors to call. He is actually a bit of a curiosity as he has no training nor experience in economic development. On March 7, 2012, he told the paper about having, “no experience in economic development, but now I love what I do and have a real passion for it.”
Both Cross Country and GE have turned out to be larger catches than first advertised. Trade magazine Diesel and Gas Turbine Worldwide reported on September 30, 2016, about an expansion of the project that will see Welland’s new plant make, “Jenbacher gas engines, as well as components for other GE reciprocating engine businesses, including GE Transportation.”
Cross Country Trailers, now, has just been purchased by Gincor. President Luc Stang, in making the announcement of the purchase, talked of planning to, “maintain jobs, invest in the site, and to actually increase the workforce.”
Windsor could have been the beneficiary of these growing companies but, instead, its destiny seems more of being on the outside watching other communities actually having their economies developed.