Feds announce $5M investment in Windsor/Essex automobility sector

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Windsor Star/Taylor Campbell



In an effort to grow further an already buzzing tech sector in Windsor and Essex County, the federal government on Friday announced a $5-million investment in what it calls the local “automobility innovation cluster.”

Through FedDev Ontario, a government initiative to support economic growth in the province’s south, the funding will go towards a number of collaborative projects in mobility technology, best global trade practices, and more. The WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation will partner with local organizations and businesses to develop the project.

MP Marco Mendicino (L—Eglinton Lawrence), parliamentary secretary to the minister of infrastructure and communities — and a University of Windsor law school alumnus — made the trip to the border city to share the funding news at the Institute for Border Logistics and Security.

“The automotive sector, like many sectors in our innovation economy, is changing at an incredible pace,” Mendicino told a roomful of stakeholders. “Innovation is transforming how we travel and move goods.”

With the financial boost, Mendicino said, the Government of Canada aims to leverage the talent, skills and innovative technology present in Windsor and Essex County to keep the region economically competitive. He described the area as a hub for international trade, and one of six regional technology development sites in Ontario for connected and autonomous vehicles.

The project is expected to support 165 companies, establish 20 new partnerships between various companies and organizations, generate $9 million in foreign investment, and create and maintain 665 jobs in the region.

“We know if we want to diversify our economy, it takes time and it takes money,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. “It doesn’t happen overnight. We need a combination of both to do it right.”

He reminded those present of his inaugural speech in December, when he focused on the importance of preparing the city for a possible FCA departure.

“Today’s announcement certainly is really important because it helps build on our economic diversity strategy in the city of Windsor,” Dilkens said. “Continued economic prosperity in our region depends upon our ability to be innovative.”

The mayor said it was “critical” that local communities, companies and the education sector “work together to brand Windsor-Essex as Canada’s leader in automotive technologies.”

WEEDC president and CEO Stephen MacKenzie said Windsor can still be the automotive capitol of Canada as long as the city, its companies and researchers continue to evolve.

“(Automobility) also allows us to leverage some of the good investments going on in Detroit, which makes our bi-national region even stronger,” MacKenzie said.

The federal funding will directly support a number of initiatives at the University of Windsor through its partnership with WEEDC: the development of mobility technology through the faculty of engineering; the establishment of a global connectivity lab through the Cross Border Institute; and the promotion of an innovation and entrepreneurial network at the EPICentre.

Michael Siu, the University of Windsor’s vice-president of research and innovation, said the post-secondary institution already has a number of related research activities underway.

“This is a great day for Windsor-Essex,” Siu said. “We look forward to expanding these research activities together with other parts of Windsor so we can fully make Windsor a leading place for automotive technology manufacturing.