New industries: 'We're going to get a couple of them,' MacKenzie says

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross


Stephen MacKenzie is confident several new industries are coming to town and is exuberant over the region’s improving image, after one year of leading the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.

Providing a progress report to city council’s executive committee Monday, MacKenzie spoke optimistically of wonderful prospects in the pipeline. He said the region is a finalist for a variety of industries from manufacturing to IT, from four different countries including Canada.

“I hope that in January, if I’m back speaking to this council, we’ll have at least two (confirmed),” he told reporters at the end of his presentation. 

MacKenzie said he can’t reveal details about the companies or where they’re from.

“I’ve probably told you more than I should, but I want to be honest,” he said. “I’m really happy about how things are going.”


One potential new business, he said, would bring 70 jobs, another would bring 10, another 400 and yet another “a couple hundred” jobs over five years, he said.

“We’ve got a Mexican prospect looking at setting up here, we’ve got a couple from Germany, we’ve got one from Switzerland, we’ve got Canadian, we’ve got some U.S.,” said MacKenzie. 

He said this region is a serious finalist for these companies. “We’re going to get a couple of them, I’m very confident … the discussions have gone really well.”

He said the spouses of executives have been visiting, looking at homes, meeting with school officials and checking out the region’s recreational amenities. “When you’re at that level, you’re really close.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said one of the potential firms MacKenzie cited is a German auto-parts company that is considering Windsor as one of three possible sites for its North American operation. He visited company officials in Germany in July.

Later that month, council approved a “very competitive” land offer to the company, which would create 200 to 300 jobs here. A decision by the company could come within months.

“They’ve been great to work with and we’ll continue right to the very end,” the mayor said of the firm.

MacKenzie is a dual Canadian-U.S. citizen who was serving as executive director of economic development in Groton, Conn., when he was chosen from about 30 candidates for the job — vacant for about a year after the sudden resignation of CEO Sandra Pupatello.

Since the start of the year, the corporation, which serves the Windsor and Essex County region, has: 

  • Dealt with 1,808 clients at its small business centre, including 1,213 from Windsor.
  • Helped with 118 startups, 76 from Windsor. Of those, 100 (59 from Windsor) continue to grow, resulting in 188 total jobs.
  • Helped with 13 expansions (seven in Windsor) of existing businesses, resulting in 241 new jobs.
  • And not including the Ford announcement (a $1.2-billion announcement that including transforming its Windsor operation into a world-class engine facility), it’s seen nine new businesses arrive (six in Windsor) worth $88 million and adding 199 jobs.  

Answering council questions about Windsor’s reputation in the “outside world,” MacKenzie admitted that when he started a year ago, the city’s reputation “hadn’t caught up with the facts.”  But thanks to marketing efforts and other initiatives, the city’s strengths when it comes to innovation and technology, are starting to shine through, he said.

“We’re really moving the needle on that issue.”

Working off their own research, company officials are starting to come to Windsor-Essex, rather than always having to be recruited, he said. 

Then he and his staff meet with company officials and tell them about incentives, or help find them a building. “That’s when it’s really working.”

The development corporation is also involved in the joint Detroit-Windsor bid to lure Amazon’s second headquarters and its 50,000 jobs to the border region, but is forbidden from talking about it.