Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
The City Of Windsor New Economic Diversification Strategy
In this edition, the Rose City Politics panel opines on the City of Windsor Council’s endorsement of the Public First report on economic diversification, with recommendations to come from administration on implementation.
The City of Windsor has seen many economic diversification strategies over the years and the Rose City Politics panel (each in their own individual opinions) breaks down what, if anything, is different about the situation now.
Windsor City Council sent an encouraging message February 8, 2021 voting unanimously to support “Windsor Works’” Economic Diversification Strategy. There are fair questions to be asked about the process that led to the contract, and plenty of room for critique. What matters is the way the Mayor and Council move forward.
The L.I.F.T. strategy calls for Windsor to renew and intensify our economic partnership with Detroit, retain and grow a talented workforce, and revitalize the city core. These aren’t new ideas, but they’re good ideas that stand a chance to be realized if elected officials put their differences and egos aside to focus on the work at hand.
Economic diversification has been a staple of headlines and campaign slogans for over a decade, but substantive movement has been lacking. Council can make real progress by building an inclusive, accountable process that invites all Windsorites to help design the city’s economic future.
To get better results in the next decade, we need to separate projects that move the needle from those that just make noise.
Councillors, led by Rino Bortolin, made a good start in their questions to delegates. Moving forward they should hold themselves and partner organizations accountable by setting measurable objectives and transparently reporting on progress.
I was struck by how many critics seemed unprepared to give the Public First report a fair hearing. Many progressive Windsorites, with valuable ideas to contribute, feel shut out of the process. That’s a problem and the task of resolving it rests with Mayor Drew Dilkens.
The Mayor’s initiative on this issue has opened the door to a glittering opportunity for Windsor. Council can seize the opportunity and build a stronger economic future by committing to an open process aimed at building shared prosperity through economic diversification.
Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.
Am I being gaslighted? I feel like it.
Windsor’s recent economic development strategy — unanimously approved by city council — was developed by a public relations firm located roughly 6,000 kilometres away, and on face value looks pretty good. But honestly, so have all the other EcDev strategies we’ve pursued.
For those unaware, to be “gaslighted” is when someone makes another person question their perception of reality. This is where I am. To quote Mugatu from the comedy film “Zoolander” — “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
I’ve grown up in a political household with parents who have run for city council, owned small businesses, written for local publications, and organized some of the largest musical festivals in North America.
Which is to say, I’ve grown up hearing about all the ways Windsor has sought to redefine, redevelop, or seek to implement strategies to propel itself into a new era of prosperity, or at the very least, make everyone else realize Ontario doesn’t stop at London!
Windsor has seen it all: a downtown arena moved east towards Tecumseh because we shunned Wayne Gretzky’s proposal; sports tourism and over $80 million spent on an aquatic centre with unsustainable operating expenses; Eddie Francis and Sandra Pupatello’s whirlwind Windsor promotional tour (arguably the best EcDev strategy we’ve seen); the Amazon HQ2 bid; branding the region as one of the top seven intelligent cities — or retirement communities?; working with Detroit somehow; or even just seeking federal and provincial funding for a mega-hospital that will hollow out our core. We’re all used to this game . . . heck, most of us root for the Lions; we know perpetual failure.
Why will this be different? Councillors and the Mayor tell us it will. I hope so because Windsor needs an economic development shot in its arm as much as we need COVID-19 vaccinations.
For all our sakes, let’s hope this strategy works, because we need its success to propel Windsor from the 1980s forward.
Jon Liedtke is a Co-host and Producer of Rose City Politics, a business consultant focusing on cannabis and marketing, an occasional reporter and writer, and a band member of Windsor’s The Nefidovs.