WEEDC Seeks Full Time Business Developers

Friday, June 8, 2012

Attracting new businesses and jobs to Windsor-Essex


Wanted: two full-time super salespeople able to sleuth out and attract new businesses and jobs to the Windsor-Essex region.

Recent job postings for a vice-president of business attraction and manager of business development with Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corp. come with a tall order.

It's one the mayor of Windsor says the WEEDC needs to make a higher priority now that it has evolved into a smooth-running organization since the hiring of CEO Ron Gaudet 2? years ago.

Even though Mayor Eddie Francis has set up a mini economic development unit in his office and enjoys zipping around the globe to woo potential investors, he said he wants WEEDC to do more legwork.

"What we want to do is use this opportunity to reposition this region ... so we deal with these challenges, and as we're coming out of the recession we have more economic diversity," said Francis, who sits on the WEEDC board.

The push to put more of the agency's resources into trying to attract new businesses has been a hot topic around the board table in the past few months, Francis said.

It has also put Gaudet, who gets high marks from municipal and business leaders for turning WEEDC around, on the defensive for the first time in his tenure.

Business attraction is one of five priorities for WEEDC, which has a staff of 13 and a budget of $2.9 million, said Gaudet, who recently returned from a trip to South Korea and Japan with vice-president of business development Rakesh Naidu.

WEEDC is working with 47 businesses that may be interested in investing in the region or are looking to attract their suppliers here, he said.

If the city wants WEEDC's help to work on other opportunities, he has made it clear the agency is ready to serve, Gaudet said.

Attracting top talent to focus on business attraction will require a multi-year funding commitment from the city and Essex County, which currently cover just over $2 million of WEEDC's budget, he said.

He welcomes Francis's involvement and enthusiasm, but he's not prepared to withdraw from the agency's work on business retention and expansion, assisting small businesses, community development and marketing, Gaudet said. They're all essential to the region's long-term success, he said.

"If I'm asked today to pull back on some of those objectives, then my time will have been short-lived because I fundamentally believe this region needs to act like a region," Gaudet said.

New investment is important, but the groundwork takes time, he said. "There is less foreign direct investment going on in the globe today than there has been for the last 100 years. There are more communities chasing few projects than ever before in the history of so-called economic development."

Under Gaudet's watch WEEDC has become more nimble and efficient than many development agencies, said board chairman Lindsay Boyd.

The small staff does yeoman's work with emails often flying back-and-forth late into the evening, he said.

WEEDC's credibility in the business community has also been greatly enhanced, said Boyd, a former chairman of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. He recalled having to practically beg business folks to accept volunteer positions on the board three years ago when the agency's leadership was in disarray.

Currently, there are a dozen highly qualified candidates who have applied to fill vacancies on the board at the end of July, he said.

WEEDC is responding to the push to put more resources into business attraction, Boyd said. "I don't see it as an issue at all."

Warden Tom Bain, who represents Essex County on the board, said mayors and deputy mayors in the county are "extremely pleased" with WEEDC's transformation and the service they are getting.

"I think they're doing a great job with the money we've allocated to them," he said.

He agreed with Francis that attracting new jobs is one of the biggest challenges - one on which the city and county are co-operating like never before.

Copyright (c) The Windsor Star