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Friday, March 2, 2012

Development Corporation CEO Delivers Report Card

"We have made significant progress and in many ways"

By Dave Hall, The Windsor Star

WINDSOR -- More than $73 million in new investment and 1,355 jobs have been attracted to the region in the past two years, according to a report card delivered Friday by the CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.

"We have made significant progress and in many ways, these are impressive numbers," said Ron Gaudet, who was hired to lead the corporation two years ago. "But the reality is, we still have feet in two distinct realities.

"We still have a chronically-high unemployment rate that has hovered around nine or 10 per cent for far too long yet in certain sectors, we have a shortage of skilled workers to fill vacant positions," said Gaudet in a presentation to the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Gaudet said the corporation is now working on an initiative in collaboration with WorkForce Windsor Essex to "repatriate workers from western Canada or the east coast who have left the region in search of work.

"We also will need co-operation from the private sector in offering not only jobs but jobs at competitive wages," said Gaudet. "Clearly, there are jobs here which need filling."

Gaudet also said that job retention support and strategies have saved more than 6,000 jobs and that efforts of the corporation's small business centre have helped launch 410 start-ups and create more than 500 jobs in the past two years.

The small business centre has already consulted with more than 1,800 small business owners and fielded more than 28,000 inquiries.

"Incremental gains like these don't always make headlines but if we'd lost 6,000 jobs in this region, the entire country would know about it," said Gaudet.

Mayor Eddie Francis said the work of the development corporation complements the work being conducted by his office in attracting jobs and investment to the region.

"We're focused on delivering jobs and diversifying the economy," said Francis. "It was our priority when we were elected and it continues to be our priority.

"It's why we've been so active in attracting CS Wind to the region as well as the maintenance, repair and overhaul hangar at Windsor Airport," said Francis.

A year ago, the development corporation launched a five-year road map strategy designed to identify key growth sectors and building blocks for future expansion and investment.

And Gaudet said that collaboration between county communities remains crucial to maintaining the momentum established over the past 12 months.

While acknowledging there is still competition among municipalities for jobs and investment, Essex County Warden Tom Bain said "collaboration is probably stronger now than it's ever been.

"I think the best example is the co-operation between the city and county in developing the region as a smart city representative before the Intelligent Communities Forum," said Bain, who is also mayor of Lakeshore.

"Essentially, I heard what I wanted to hear today and I hope we can see similar progress by this time next year," said Bain.

Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

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