DesRosiers Strikes Again
Gee, do you think Eddie's ""united front" of local business and labour leaders to discuss how Windsor can move forward in these tough economic times" might be his reaction in advance of Dennis' remarks. By the way, isn't that the job of the Gazelle Feeders? A vote of non-confidence in them by the Mayor I would think. A slap in the face.
Were the Henderson column and the Star Editorial trying to do damage control in advance as well to protect the Mayor from Big, Bad Dennis if he was a meanie?
Just in passing about Eddie, check out the Star video if it is still up and see him get so uncomfortable when he might have to share the kudos and limelight with his Councillor colleagues.
Time to let Dennis have his say:
- “LET ME HELP YOU UNDERSTAND”
Speech to: Windsor Homebuilders Association
By: Dennis DesRosiers, President, DesRosiers
Automotive Consultants Inc.
Thank you for that kind introduction and thank you my friends for inviting me back to talk to your group again this year. It’s always a pleasure to come back to my hometown where my family and many friends and business clients still live. Most of you know I am a proud Kennedy Collegiate graduate, a proud University of Windsor graduate and proud supporter of the Windsor Essex County region.
My presentation today will be in two parts, first an overview of the automotive situation in North America where I will examine some of the implications for Canada and to a degree Windsor – Essex County. This will take about 15 minutes.
Second, I also am compelled to talk about Windsor from a broader perspective and to provide you with some very heart felt words from someone who is from Windsor, who understands Windsor, who is passionate about Windsor and can provide the view from within yet at the same time lives “outside” Windsor and can also provide the view from afar.
Review Auto sector slides (attached)
Now let’s deep dive into the “Windsor Issue”
Two years ago I came to Windsor and gave a speech at a Tooling conference entitled “Help me understand”. In this speech I asked Windsor to explain why they were not acknowledging and responding aggressively to the economic crises facing them.
Quite frankly the political and media response to this crisis made no sense to me so I asked Windsor to “help me understand” why they were doing what they were doing. There were about a dozen things I asked about and I’ll not repeat these today other than to say that I never got an answer. And Windsor’s economic situation has continued to deteriorate over the last two years.
Today I’d like to turn this phrase around and I title my speech “Let me help you understand”.
The slides on the automotive sector are meant to help crystallize what is going on in the sector. It is clear that the sector has globalized at the expense of GM, Ford and Chrysler and that any entity that touches these companies continues to work through wrenching structural change.
Many of these entities are in Windsor … raw materials, tooling and advanced manufacturing technology suppliers… automotive parts and modules … vehicle assembly … car dealers … aftermarket players and all of the knowledge-based imbedded professional service suppliers including R&D, engineering design, finance, insurance, legal, accounting, real estate, transportation and logistics and so on. The list is very long and wide reaching.
The problems in the auto sector partly explain why Windsor has the highest unemployment rate in the country, why Windsor has falling real estate and home prices, high commercial vacancy rates and high foreclosure rates. But there is a lot more to this than the economics of the auto sector and let me help you understand that hoping it will all get better will not change Windsor’s situation. I believe it is going to require strong leadership.
Let me help you understand leadership. Lee Iacocca in his recent bestseller titled “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” stated that the principal role of leadership is to confront, understand, and explain reality head on, to develop realistic and achievable strategies and solutions and to marshal the necessary resources for successful outcomes. Leadership in Windsor falls short of Lee Iacocca’s definition. I see people in leadership positions who appear to be afraid to embrace difficult challenges and instead rely on selective facts to the point of myth making, to cast them in a favorable light. And most troubling to me is that any evidence and opinions that challenges the myth, gets dismissed and often loudly.
Confronting reality requires honesty and putting oneself at risk. That … my friends … is leadership -- putting oneself at risk.
Fear of failure is the motivator in Windsor rather than daring to succeed.
It’s somewhat ironic that leaders who employ the strategy of not confronting reality to avoid failing, are in reality, making failure more likely. When the ostrich sticks its head in the sand, which end is up? With one’s head in the sand how can other opinions and perhaps the best opinions be heard? That speaks to another problem in Windsor and that is those who should be leading do not surround themselves with strong voices, instead preferring ‘yes’ men. In this way, only select opinions and ideas can be heard. Some would argue that preventing alternative viewpoints is often used as a decoy to cover one’s own shortcomings. My Dad told me only one thing when I started my own company, he said, “Dennis always hire people smarter than you”.
It appears that the preferred method here for dealing with the mighty economic challenges facing this region is to create the appearance of “doing something” or “spin control”, complete with glossy brochures and fancy slide shows. Most in Windsor believe that if you make it sound and look good then everything will be fine. In this region if you acknowledge reality and challenge those who should be leading Windsor, you get labeled as anti-Windsor.
This is not what Lee Iacocca had in mind.
One has to keep in mind that investment decisions by the national and international business community are -- not surprisingly -- business case driven. One needs to be cautious in waging rhetorical and over-hyped marketing campaigns that ironically, turn off the business community. These campaigns might fool Joe Blow citizen who sees “something being done”, but to the investor community – the very community being sought after – it does not. Marketing doesn’t attract investors, creating a business climate where companies can thrive creates investment.
Let me help you understand that GM, Ford and Chrysler and everyone touching them are definitely not coming back to their previous glory days. It is certainly NOT cyclical as some suggest. This time it’s very different. Global forces are in charge of these companies and represents structural change not cyclical change.
I have very high hopes that GM, Ford and Chrysler will survive and will be more vibrant in the future. But they will be unable to rescue Windsor on their own like has happened a number of times in the past. The auto sector has a role in moving Windsor into a new dimension – perhaps up the value chain. But that role will require a difficult transition to world-class standards of innovation, skills development and productivity improvements.
Let me help you understand that there are deeply rooted cultural factors that are also responsible for the problems in W-EC, not just the global economics of the automotive sector.
After many decades of strong employment and high wages it is not surprising that an “entitlement” culture evolved. But an “entitlement” culture is troubling in a competitive global marketplace. Global players work for their market share; they are not “entitled” to anything. And acting like a ‘victim’ when you don’t get what you feel you are ‘entitled’ to makes matters worse. While it may play well locally, outside of Windsor it does you a lot of harm.
Perpetual entitlement/victim-hood stifles the need for change… on the corporate side of the equation a belief that it is “just a matter of time” before what is rightfully yours will come back prevents companies from innovating with new products and aggressively introducing and experimenting with new technology.
On the labour side of the equation it surfaces as a telephone book thick labour contract where workers feel they have to protect themselves with voluminous legal language.
But also let me say that there has been progress -- credit local labour leaders who get it and are confronting reality but they cannot do it alone. They need phone calls returned. Their members need help. They need a leader as defined by Lee Iacocca.
On the political front … victim-hood is blaming your troubles on every other level of Government except your own … after all “if only those Feds or those guys at Queen’s Park would help us everything would be all right”….
The headline in The Windsor Star on Saturday pronounced that, “Windsor’s woes are cyclical”. That is what I mean when I say you have a culture of entitlement. Windsor doesn’t have to respond because all the problems are cyclical … it is only a matter of time before Windsor is boom-town Canada again.
Let me help you understand that no automaker is ‘entitled’ to market share. Their problems are not cyclical. Windsor is not ‘entitled’ to funding for a new bridge, Windsor is not ‘entitled’ to billions of Gov’t funding for tunnels, Windsor is not ‘entitled’ to more funding for its University and College. Windsor has to earn these privileges. It is not the Federal or Provincial Government’s job to bail out Windsor.
Windsor truly believes that ‘larger’ market forces control its destiny, be they economic or political forces … this so-called ‘perfect storm’… when in actual fact it is Windsor’s response or lack of response to these market forces that has put it into this situation.
Let me repeat this.
Windsor truly believes that ‘larger’ market forces control its destiny, be they economic or political forces … this so-called ‘perfect storm’… when in actual fact it is Windsor’s response or lack of response to these market forces that has put it into this situation.
It is Windsor’s job to rescue Windsor. Everyone has a role but no one is “entitled” to anything. Leadership has to come from within.
Let me give you an opposite example on which I, and others on the Board of Governors at the University of Windsor have worked very hard.
The University was just awarded $40 million by the Province to help it build its new research campus. Talk about a Government helping out! The University didn’t get that money because of ‘entitlement’. Our initial proposal asked for the money because our existing buildings were dilapidated. That was the wrong approach. We got that money because a number of very smart people worked in harmony to create a superior concept – a superior product -- to any other University in the entire province. Then we worked hard as a focused and unified team to get this funding. We were not “entitled” to that money; it was earned on the basis of an innovative and a meritorious proposal.
This is a good example of what can happen when you get rid of the mentality of ‘entitlement’ and put in its place true leadership. In the University’s case we had the leadership of our Chancellor the Hon. Ed Lumley who is a true leader. He didn’t take the leadership mantel to receive credit for his efforts, it was not ego driven. He took on this role to make a positive contribution to his alma mater.
It’s going to take real community leadership such as what Mr. Lumley exhibited to set Windsor on the path to prosperity.
I find most Windsorites very insular; they stand on the edge of Essex County and look in. Very few look out and most reject outsiders, like myself, when we come to Windsor to provide a different perspective.
A Politician at Queen’s Park once told me that “Windsor is only 350 kilometres from Toronto but Toronto is 35,000 kilometers from Windsor”. The outsiders that can help you are very close by; but Windsor too often treats them like they are on another planet.
You are fortunate to have Dwight and Sandra and in the past politicians like Dave Cooke who can bring an outsiders perspective to Windsor because when their Governments were elected they were forced to live in the outside world of Toronto and they gained the perspective of an outsider. I would argue that they brought a lot of economic benefit to Windsor. This is what an outsider, with intimate local knowledge, does ... they make a difference.
That is what Yves Landry did when after spending much of his career outside Windsor gaining an “outsider’s” perspective he came back to Windsor and went to his head office and effectively made the business case for a strategic investment in building a $500 million dollar automotive R&D and advanced education centre in Windsor.
I’m worried because I hear and see more and more Windsor becoming … self aggrandizement vs sacrifice … intolerance vs tolerance … secrecy vs openness … divided vs united.
As long as these negative attitudes are allowed to, or worse yet, encouraged to fester then Windsor will continue to suffer.
I can’t tell you in more forceful terms, “You will never rescue Windsor by dividing Windsor. You rescue Windsor by uniting Windsor, bringing people together and moving forward.”
That is your current biggest flaw on the local political and media front. Your local politicians and your local media have engendered a culture of divisiveness rather than unity.
For instance, it is beyond belief that the University of Windsor is being criticized as it moves forward with a capital expenditure program that may reach $200 million dollars over the next few years.
The Ambassador Bridge is being beat up and criticized for wanting to spend a billion dollars of its own money to help fix the border.
Will Borealis and CP Rail find it difficult to spend $350 million to replace a 100-year rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor with the state of the art double-stack infrastructure needed to integrate the region into global supply chains?
How do some councilors respond to bringing desperately needed jobs and investment to Windsor: Instead of daring to capitalize on these few private sector opportunities to lever them for bigger investments – local politics undercuts them, they refuse to meet with them and then throw obstacles in their path to make it as difficult as possible to spend hundreds of millions in an economically depressed city.
As the world shrinks and information flies around the globe -- how do you think Windsor’s actions play in the boardrooms across Canada and the United States and the rest of the world? Mention Windsor right now and eyes roll -- it’s that simple. I see this because I’m in some of those boardrooms.
This is only a short list but together they represent thousands of jobs. Let me help you understand why these jobs are not coming to Windsor … it is the culture of “entitlement” … “victim-hood” … “insularity” … “divisiveness” …
Why isn’t Windsor united behind these industrialists who want to spend money and create jobs in this City? From an “outsiders” point of view, let me tell you that virtually every other City in Canada would be tripping over their feet to help the University, the Bridge Company, Borealis, CP Rail, Tony Toldo and the others who want to help Windsor.
Not here. The minute someone wants to invest here, many of your local politicians and some in the media start issuing their customary “demand list”, hire lawyers and tell these investors to do it their way or hit the highway… witness the contortions over all of the proposed investments.
The Windsor Star quoted a local politician just a week or so ago.
Quote. “If you think it’s the worst city in the world, what are you doing here?” End of quote.
And the columnist who referred to this quote was COMPLIMENTING the person who said this. To paraphrase this quote, “It is my way or the highway in Windsor”.t
Remember, there is a lot more money to be made outside Windsor than inside Windsor. The ordinary citizen referred to in this quote likely has no choice but to stay in Windsor but investors take these kind of quotes very seriously … they hit the highway and put their money into other communities.
I do see hope for the future on the civic leadership front.
One veteran councilor --who understands the big picture -- introduced and passed a motion to bring together the educational community, the business community and local governments in an effort to identify skills needed for the next generation of workers.
One new member of council just introduced a notice of motion for more transparency. Another new councilor asked for a regional economic summit to come up with local strategies to address the economic crises.
On the need for unity I also see hope. I’ve observed the Herculean efforts of Tony Toldo to pull together the top industrialists in Windsor into a cohesive group and I applaud this effort. He has become the “Champion” and “Voice” for Windsor that we lost when Yves Landry died.
He is Windsor’s Roger Penske.
Now we have to find a way to integrate all the other groups in Windsor into his initiative and here I applaud Mr. Toldo as he had the foresight and leadership to invite the two major labour leaders in Windsor to his brainstorming session. Business and labour working together, whom would have thought this possible – Tony Toldo – that’s who!
Of course many have to come to expect this type leadership from Mr. Toldo, Windsor’s Mayor emeritus. I bet most of you didn’t realize you had two Mayors. You have an elected Mayor and then you have Mr. Toldo the Mayor emeritus of Windsor who is trying to build a unified group to lead Windsor out of this mess – vintage Iacocca.
Mr. Toldo is daring to succeed!
Let me help you understand what needs to be done on the economic development front. Historically Windsor has had four key elements to its success… a tool, mould and die sector, an automotive sector, an agri-food sector centered more in the county than Windsor but critical for the area and finally a tourism/hospitality industry that feeds off of Detroit.
Each of these sectors needs a specialized business case based strategy to help stabilize and regenerate their presence down here. They will find it difficult to revitalize on their own.
Let me help you understand that if you abandon any of these four sectors you will be making a major mistake. These industries have formed the backbone of economic development in this community for many years and they absolutely must form the backbone of your strategy for the future. The notion I’ve heard down here that these sectors should not be addressed or are “yesterday’s” businesses is extremely self-destructive. It is these four sectors that represent the best opportunities to create your so-called “Gazelles”.
I see a fifth sector that holds huge potential and this is the entire medical sector be it educating doctors, nurses and dentists or designing and manufacturing innovative medical devices or caring for an aging society.
Virtually anything that touches the word “medical” is a rapid growth industry in Canada. Embracing this industry has significant economic benefits for the City not to mention the health benefits for your citizens.
Why not expand your MTDM sector into tools and equipment for the medical field not just the automotive field. They are talented enough to do this.
Windsor is going to become more of a retirement community and some would argue that Windsor should do more to promote itself as a retirement community. Locally or in Detroit you have virtually everything a retirement community needs, world class entertainment, professional sports, transportation, temperate weather, shopping, modest house pricing, a relatively low cost of living, etc. You are missing one very big thing. And that is more healthcare. This includes not just the human resource side of healthcare and the education side of healthcare but also the infrastructure related to healthcare.
Just think of how many jobs there would be in the Windsor Home Builders Association if we were to double or triple the healthcare infrastructure in Windsor. Think of how many new homes would have to be built if Windsor could encourage thousands of retirees to relocate to Windsor because we had the best healthcare infrastructure in Canada, the best medical education in Canada, the best Hospice in Canada, the best nursing school in Canada, a centre of excellence in medical devices technologies. Go down the list.
And in the automotive sector the future is “the six inches between your ears” not blue-collar jobs. Yes we need to try to keep as many of these jobs as possible but every single factory job that is lost can be replaced with a higher paying “intellectual” job. Yves Landry proposed this strategy more than a decade ago and little has been done to promote it. You have more interest in low skill and low paying call centre jobs than high skilled high paying research, design, development and testing jobs. Figure that one out in your mind.
In summary, let me help you understand some things that I see Windsor needs.
1. Windsor needs local politicians who are prepared to listen and to bring people together rather than isolate so many citizens. A number of councilors have respect, intellect and experience and I would encourage them to take more of a leadership role. They have the ability. There is an immaturity with some of your local politicians so other local politicians have to step forward and fill the leadership void.
2. Windsor needs to create an environment where people are not afraid to stand up and express an alternate point of view, where healthy debate is encouraged rather than mocked. It’s obvious what is going on down here – toe the party line or get beat up … my way or the highway. We all know the drill. First, the headline story, followed by outrage, followed by a print media drubbing, followed by attempts to discredit the source, then claims that someone is cleaning up the mess despite causing it. And finally there is a call for other levels of Government to fix the problem.
3. Windsor needs the labour movement to continue to evolve in a more collaborative and progressive way to help build a globally competitive workforce and profitable companies which is the absolute best way to secure durable well paying jobs, benefits and pensions. The classic industrial union role is to counter bad management. Well most companies are now well managed and the role of the union needs to be re-defined. Windsor needs brilliant labour leaders who have the power to move the needle. There are talented folks in the labour community that can re-define their role in this City.
4. Windsor needs more community leaders like Tony Toldo who are willing to stand up and be champions for this City and indeed who are willing to challenge those who do not want to unite to help this City.
5. Some say, “Give yourself permission to be positive about the City”. I say that Windsorites shouldn’t need ‘permission’ to work together or to allow alternative points of view. No one in Windsor should need ‘permission’ to acknowledge the City is in crises. Windsor needs leaders who don’t seek ‘permission’ to lead but instead have the strength of character to lead on his or her own.
6. I also think Windsor citizens need to step up and to give encouragement to those leaders who want to move this City forward. There are times when it seems that the more I tell it like it is in Windsor (ie: The Truth) the more I get beat up. But I get hundreds of e-mails and phone calls and I talk to dozens of citizens in restaurants and at events in this City. They all are incredibly supportive and tell me to soldier on since they agree with my fundamental message. But when I ask them why they don’t step to the plate and speak out themselves they all say the same thing … “Dennis you don’t understand, anyone who speaks out against the in-crowd in this city is ostracized and cut off and publicly humiliated or punished or at the very least, black listed. I won’t be subjected to that treatment”. In other words … “my way or the highway”.
Well isn’t it sad that Windsor allows its media and others to do this. But don’t tell me I don’t understand. I fully understand because I bear the brunt of these attacks as well. Don’t you find it interesting that your local newspaper attacked me last Saturday with an editorial five full days BEFORE I was scheduled to give this speech? To quote Shakespeare, “Thou doth protest too much”. Or to paraphrase, “Those who are most guilty protest the loudest”.
You know … I have to be in Windsor almost 20 times a year for meetings and after these meetings I have a three and a half hour drive back to Toronto. On that drive I spend the entire time trying to answer one simple question. “Why…. Why am I doing this?” Well let me tell you “Why?”
I’m doing this because I have a passion for this City and see so much upside for Windsor. For instance, Windsor has the potential to be a global centre for automotive research, design, development and testing of vehicles and parts.
I’m doing this because I know that Windsor is one of the most caring and compassionate Cities in this country just look at how much is raised each year for various charities.
I see a group of hard working citizens that deserve to have economic prosperity. I want to make this happen.
I see a very entrepreneurial industrial group like the tool and die guys who have brilliant minds and given the right circumstances can help Windsor innovate out of its quagmire.
I see Windsor as a “riddle” wrapped in an “enigma”. It’s the ultimate puzzle that needs to be solved. But it can be solved and that is how I answer the question … “Why am I doing this?”
Let me tell you a very short story and then I’ll sit down. Over my seven years on the Board at the University of Windsor I have attended over 100 meetings on campus. With most of these I have 2 to 4 hours to kill during the day so I wander around campus knocking on doors and sitting on park benches talking to professors, students and the administrative staff. Man o Man I can’t tell you how this exercise uplifts my spirits. Talk to the students at our University and you sense an incredible desire to make this City work, to improve its outlook and to capitalize on its potential. I suspect it is the same with most or the other citizens of Windsor.
Why would anyone tell these citizens, these students that, “if you think it’s the worst City in the world, what are you doing here?”
I also must admit that I get very discouraged many times on my drive home. It is not pleasant to be yelled at meetings and denigrated in your local media and I must add… also denigrated BY your local media. Read Saturday’s editorial in The Star.
But I keep coming back because of the people in Windsor and the students at the University of Windsor. I have faith in and care for the people in this region. Go back to the earlier quote, “If you think it’s the worst city in the world, what are you doing here?” Well they are trying to make the City of Windsor a better place to live. If I was a citizen that’s how I would answer the politician who said this and then I’d ask my own question. “Why aren’t you trying to make this City better?”
Let me finish by telling you that if the insider/outsiders like myself ever find they can’t answer the simple question of “Why am I doing this?” and then decide to stay away, then Windsor will be in even bigger trouble.
Thank you for your patience and I hope you now understand an “insider/outsider’s” perspective on Windsor.
The most important thing that government can do for its citizens is to give them a positive future. I want to do my part by helping to build a stronger regional economy and standard of living for the citizens of Windsor Essex County. I hope your civic leaders have the same objective. Thank You.
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