Movers And Shakers Are Back
Wouldn't you like to know who "they" are? I sure would. However I noticed that the Star has been very deliberate in not naming names of those Windsorites who attended the big party in Toronto. That is smart. Why make enemies of those were not invited. Why let your neighbours know that you are as unimportant as I. [Double sob]
From what I have heard, and I had friends from here and in Toronto who attended the function, it was very well done. It was a credit to the people who organized the event.
However the big question is what will be the results? Will any investment or jobs actually be produced because of this? Gord Orr, to his credit, said:
- "following up with potential new partners is essential.
"It's incumbent upon the people who were at this event to follow up because this wasn't a one-off get-together, it's just the beginning," Gordon Orr said.
"It would be a terrible mistake to think 'the party's over' and return to business as usual."
The interesting question is whose responsibility will it be to do so? Will it be each Windsorite himself or herself who attended who has to follow up? That does seem silly to be honest since these people would know the people that they invited to come to the function from Toronto and didn't need a party to talk to them.
Did these people make some new contacts at the party? If so, as successful businesspeople, I would expect that they would know enough that they need to develop the relationship.
However it seems to me the what was created at the function was a Rolodex of some of the top people in the City of Toronto from a business perspective. If they came and were impressed by what they saw, there is a need to follow up with them to see how Windsor can encourage them to look to this area for new investment. Who is going to do that?
Normally, one would have thought that this was the job of the Windsor Essex Development Commission but that organization is in such a mess without a leader that they seem unable to even produce a brochure for distribution. Moreover instead of going a few hours by car east of Windsor to Toronto for further promotion of Windsor, they think it is more important to go across the Atlantic for a trade show to London, England in June.
I hope someone that has a game plan to follow up. Perhaps that will turn out to be Sandra's and Dwight's function. It is a shame that Windsor Councillors were not invited to attend because if they had been there, they too could have assisted in the further promotion of our area with the individuals that they met at the party. As one of the Councillors told me:
- "We were not given the opportunity to go although you probably already know this."
Yes I knew it. To be honest, that comment is a disgrace but totally expected from a Mayor who has constantly hogged the limelight and only uses his Council when he can point the blame at them.
As much as we think this party went well, it is more important to know what our guests thought, and are going to do , or even more importantly, what the media thought. Only several hundred came to the party but thousands more of the decision-makers will read what the media said about Windsor.
Unfortunately, the Globe and mail was not too impressed nor too kind. We came out looking like a have-not region in an about to be have-not Province. As a former Torontonian, I know that it is a huge insult to be compared with Buffalo:
- Windsor can rebound, but not by 'talking proud'
MURRAY CAMPBELL, May 15, 2008
This is Windsor's situation: It is represented by two of the most powerful cabinet ministers in the Ontario government and yet it hopes an airlift of its workers to Western Canada will help stop its downward spiral in fortunes.
These haven't been good years for the city, which has thrived and suffered on the cyclical fortunes of the auto industry. It has lost at least 10,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001 as it endures what Mayor Eddie Francis characterizes as "a harder, more intense and more difficult slowdown" than in any other Ontario city.
The announcement this week that General Motors Co. of Canada will close its transmission plant and put 1,400 workers on the street was a cruel blow, coming as it did just six weeks after Ford Canada said it would reopen its Essex engine plant and bring back 300 workers.
Mr. Francis, who sees challenges where others see problems, was disheartened by the GM news. "Every time we seem to be making progress by taking a few steps forward, announcements like this really, really set us back," he said.
But the mayor said in an interview this week that he remains confident that Windsor can rebound because it recognizes that it has to deal with a structural, not merely a cyclical, situation. "We're dealing with the harsh economic realities of global competition and we're dealing with the Big Three that have their own struggles," he said, referring to the decline of the auto makers based across the Detroit River.
The city's mantra now stresses the need for diversification away from the motor vehicle. Mr. Francis and the local MPPs, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello, mimic each other in listing local companies that prospered on automotive work but that are now serving the aerospace industry, the U.S. military or Alberta's oil sands.
The push away from dependency on the auto has been under way for about four years, more or less the time in which the Liberals have governed. The previous Conservative government wasn't inclined to help the auto industry - and had little interest in helping a region that elected opposition Liberals - but the McGuinty government has invested about $1.5-billion in the city (including $400-million for an expansion of its casino and a $24-million medical school at the University of Windsor).
Mr. Francis believes the city is midway through its transition to becoming what he calls "the intellectual capital of the automotive industry." The trouble is the rate of diversification can't keep up with the plant closings. And as Mr. Francis knows, about 65 older, industrial U.S. cities are attempting to remake themselves. That's a lot of competition. As Buffalo found 25 years ago, just Talkin' Proud isn't enough.
Which brings us to the mayor's "long-distance commuting program" that is a key part of his "Jobs Today" strategy. He has been lobbying western mayors and air carriers for help in crafting a plan that would allow workers to travel weekly on subsidized, direct flights from Windsor to jobs in Alberta and Saskatchewan. This would keep families in the city until the local economy rebounds.
Mr. Francis said he only recently found out that legions of Newfoundlanders fly to Alberta on flights paid for by labour-hungry companies in Fort McMurray. He's not fazed by the comparison.
"That's what we want to replicate," he said. "Because, at the end of the day, it's important for us to keep the residents and families here. The last thing you want is a population decline."
We go to Toronto looking for investment and the Mayor's absurd scheme to fly people out of town for jobs (knowing they will never return) is used against us. Oh, has he yet completed the report setting out the details of this plan as he promised eons ago?
Will we provide locally-produced Screech rather than bottled water at in camera Council meetings so that a Councillor will have the excuse to use the [expletive deleted] word again? Will we call the DRIC experts from out of town Mainlanders? Will Windsorites become the butt of humour as Windsor jokes take the place of Newfie ones:
- How many Windsorites does it take to screw in a lightbulb
- Green-link up
Well, you get the picture
Wow (there's that WOW factor again) how can we be half way to being the intellectual capital of the auto business when the Mayor's strident opposition to the location of the Unviersity's Engineering Complex delayed the process for about a year and increased its costs as all of the auto companies are reducing their presence here.
Sure we have talked about economic diversification for years but our spanking new WEDC teminated its CEO and needed a handout to develop an investor brochure! You see saying something is starting earns a Mayoral checkmark on Eddie's Report Card and that is all that counts politically. Results do not!
I am so glad that the Mayor now sees that our issues our structural. It seems it only took the loss of so many plants and jobs for him to grasp the obvious. Why only a few months ago he was deluding himself and trying to delude us by saying:
- "Speaking before the Windsor and Essex County Real Estate Board's annual general meeting Friday, Francis presented an economic overview of the city and region and told the 140 realtors in attendance that, once the economic cyclical wheel turns, the city will be better positioned to compete.
"Typically, as a region, we've been through these challenges before," said Francis. "It's nothing new. And each time we go through one, we come out that much stronger."
Standing beside a projection screen showing negative newspaper headlines dating from the early 1990s during the last recession, Francis said they illustrate how "the same types of stories keep coming up regularly every few years."
So now that the party's over....what happens next? Where's the gameplan? Where's the follow-up? How do we measure success or failure? More importantly, whose job is it to build on what was achieved? Otherwise, all that we got was a big hangover.