The region is definitely changing gears in business and politics this year. Photo credit: © CanStockPhoto /iqoncept
2019: “A Change Would Do You Good” Windsor Essex!
As a new year begins, there’s renewed optimism across the Windsor Essex region with new Mayors and Councillors bringing fresh ideas to the table, while business owners are confidently expanding and seeking new customers.
The title of this cover story quotes a song recorded and written by Sheryl Crowe (along with co-writers), and for many, change means hope for improvements and a better tomorrow. Change is nothing to be scared of either, in fact, for Windsor Essex, it seems to point towards exciting times for the coming year.
Commercial growth across the region is a strong indication that business owners believe consumer confidence will be a major economic factor throughout 2019.
Beyond municipal politics and business expansion, there’s a new President and Chief Executive Officer at the head of the Windsor Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce with Rakesh Naidu taking over from interim President and CEO Janice Forsyth.
There are changes on the downtown business scene as well, with a new slate of officers sitting on the board of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, where a new Chairman will take over from long time downtown booster Larry Horwitz.
The new board will meet January 24 at which time a new Chairman is set to be selected by a board, which consists of seven new members.
There are also changes at a number of small, but well-established, businesses with Property Mom joining forces with eXp Realty, a cloud-based real estate company; Marica Soleski taking over from veteran Colleen Hurst as head of PROSTAFF Employment Solutions and Eddy Hammoud opening a second Eddy’s Mediterranean Bistro on Lesperance Road in Tecumseh.
For retail, things are looking up over at Tecumseh Mall with some new big retail shops, as well Devonshire Mall has already undergone extensive renovations and updates last year with a new food court and Mandarin Restaurant on site.
On the political front across the county, there’s a new Mayor in Leamington where Hilda MacDonald unseated incumbent John Paterson.
Retirements created openings for new Mayors in the nearby towns and municipalities where in Essex Larry Snively replaces Ron McDermott; in LaSalle Marc Bondy replaces Ken Antaya and on Pelee Island where Raymond Durocher takes over from Rick Masse.
It’s a time for change and renewal as a new year begins and what follows is just a small compilation of what Biz Xmagazine readers can expect to experience over the next 12 months and beyond.
Rookies Looking To Make A Mark
The landscape of Windsor City Council changed dramatically in November 2018 when four new councillors were elected — Fabio Costante (Ward 2); Gary Kaschak (Ward 8); Kieran McKenzie (Ward 9) and Jim Morrison (Ward 10).
All four face a steep learning curve when it comes to building a partnership with fellow members of council and working with administration to see their individual priorities come to fruition.
For McKenzie (see photo on front cover of this issue), it’s mostly about infrastructure in his ward where pedestrian crosswalks, a nature-focused community centre and a library adjacent to Devonwood Conservation Area are high on his constituents’ list of priorities.
“A crosswalk on Calderwood Avenue near Woodward Boulevard has been recommended by administration and it will be dealt with during the budget process,” explains McKenzie. “The other at Caron Avenue and Cabana Road has not been recommended, but I believe it’s just as important.”
Devonwood, indicates McKenzie, is a gem in the middle of the city, off Division Road and while it’s on protected land, he believes there is ample adjacent land to accommodate a community centre and library, both a first for Ward 9.
For Costante, the major issues on the west side range from property standards, rodent control and infrastructure to funding a community centre and ensuring that community benefits flow in a timely fashion from the international consortium building the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
“And as far as the Ambassador Bridge project is concerned, we need to ensure that all conditions are met before construction even begins,” states Costante. “I refer to these projects as 100 year bridges and we have one chance to get it right.”
Costante adds, “They will have a major impact on the west side, in particular Sandwich, and the residents need to be protected from negative impacts wherever possible.”
Meanwhile, Ward 8’s Kaschak — who had run for council twice before — is banking on being able to deliver a community centre for his constituents, as well as dealing with homelessness, addiction and crime, which all go beyond the borders of his ward.
Morrison, who also ran for council four years ago, believes it’s time to focus on infrastructure across the city, even at the cost of big-ticket items such as a new central library.
In his ward, traffic congestion at Dominion Boulevard and Northwood Street is a major issue given the close proximity of schools and a mosque, which create problems on a daily basis, not only for commuters, but also residents.
Work is expected to begin later this year.
All in all, it’s expected to be a busy year for these four rookie councillors as they try to balance campaign promises with the hard realities of city-wide spending and balancing the budget.
For more information on how to get in touch with all Windsor City Council members or to learn about City Hall matters, visit the website: CityWindsor.ca.
The Future’s Bright For Tecumseh Mall
This year will ring in even more changes at Tecumseh Mall where Europro (Tecumseh Mall) LP, the mall’s new owners as of November 2018, promise a complete exterior retrofit will be completed in 2019.
Europro, a Canadian commercial property management company, already owns three other commercial properties in Windsor. New exterior tenants already include: Marshalls, Home Sense, Giant Tiger, PetSmart and Sky Zone trampoline park and the mall’s management team is hard at work to fill interior vacancies.
Debra McVeety has returned as General Manager and been joined by Retail Manager Katarina Taylor.
“We will have a number of announcements to make in the coming months as we finalize agreements with a new roster of tenants for our inside spaces,” McVeety informs us. “It’s an exciting time at Tecumseh Mall and we are confident our customers will be happy with the changes and additions we have made.”
The mall was built in 1973, redeveloped in 1985 and a $16 million expansion was completed in 2001. It is situated at the intersection of Tecumseh Road East and Lauzon Road.
The current renovation is expected to cost $16 million and will bring the total number of tenants, when all vacancies are filled, to 54.
To see a current store directory or find information on events please refer to: TecumsehMall.com.
People For Job, Jobs For People
Matching people with jobs and jobs with people remain the goals for PROSTAFF Employment Solutions, heading into the year.
The agency — located at 2557 Dougall Avenue in Windsor (PROSTAFFworks.ca) — is now run by Marica Soleski who bought the business from founder Colleen Hurst in August of last year.
“I don’t plan on changing anything,” explains Soleski. “It’s a great company with great staff. I also have Colleen helping out as a mentor and I couldn’t think of a better person to help me out than Colleen.”
Soleski says the biggest challenges facing employment agencies is matching skill sets and finding general labourers who are in short supply throughout the Windsor area.
“When the minimum wage increased, it seemed to spur more people into looking for work,” Soleski notes of last year’s bump to $14 an hour.
A second increase to $15, which was scheduled to kick in January 1, has been cancelled by the new Conservative government.
Soleski points out that two indicators of a growing economy are low unemployment rates and increasing numbers of people seeking work.
“We’re constantly seeking people to fill jobs and we are also seeking new clients who need employees,” remarks Soleski. “It’s challenging, but it’s a great job and I look forward to getting up every morning and coming to work.”
A New Real Estate Experience
Team Property Mom is now part of eXp Realty, a fast-growing cloud-based realty company where agents train, work and collaborate in a virtual world without ever having to go into an office.
Kim Zdunich, formerly Broker of Record for Property Mom Real Estate Brokerage, folded that company into eXp last August and renamed it, Team Property Mom.
“It was getting to be too much work to run a stand-alone company, so we joined up with eXp, which operates in 50 states and three provinces so we can offer our service to a large number of buyers and sellers,” Zdunich expresses.
Zdunich explains that with eXp, all training is done in a virtual world where agents can collaborate in a virtual campus environment without actually meeting in person.
Property Mom employs eight full-time agents and one full-time administrator and is actively recruiting more agents for eXp.
Looking ahead into 2019, Zdunich expects prices in the local market to continue growing, but at a slower rate than in previous years since interest rates are expected to rise, which often causes a reduction in home sales.
Zdunich discloses that listings are down from previous years, which often leaves potential sellers reluctant to list for fear of having nowhere to go.
And growing support for an open-bidding process rather than the current blind-bid system is also expected to have an impact on sales prices, she believes.
“In a blind-bid process, you would often get one offer that was way over the odds compared to the rest because nobody knew who was bidding how much,” states Zdunich. “In an open-bid system, everyone knows what’s on the table, which will likely lead to the seller getting less for the home.”
As for eXp Realty, the company’s offices are owned by agents who also participate in a revenue-sharing system, which rewards everyone when sales are made so there is less competition among agents.
“We don’t have to compete for the same listing because we all share in each other’s success,” Zdunich indicates.
For more information on this company, check: PropertyMom.com or eXpRealty.com.