Local business task force desired to avoid financial meltdown due to COVID-19 crisis

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello


With many local businesses expected to be shuttered during the current economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a downtown business owner wants Windsor’s city council to establish an expert task force to help navigate the months ahead.
While delaying payment on property taxes, in part to aid business owners, is a “great first step,” Joe Mikhail of Mikhail Holdings Ltd. fears up to 25 per cent of businesses in Windsor may close down in the coming weeks and months ahead because of fallout from the coronavirus crisis.
“Your administration may not be able to fund its budget without significant tax increases, which will further deepen the losses of businesses,” Mikhail said in a letter to Mayor Drew Dilkens and city councillors, which he sent on Thursday.
Mikhail said input from local small business owners and developers could get lost as council tries to navigate through the financial burdens created by the widespread business and industry shutdowns.
“I would respectfully ask if your administration would consider convening a panel of prominent local business leaders to help you respond and more completely understand the demands we now face,” Mikhail said in his letter.
Mikhail told the Star he believes the city needs to start planning now for what lies ahead from a financial perspective so a likely recession does not turn into a lengthy depression.
“We are facing something that has never been seen before — where we have effectively shut down the world and will be asking it to start up again,” he said of his for the request to council. “A significant number of businesses will not survive and the city will lose all those tax dollars.
“Many options will have to be reviewed and I don’t know if (the city) has a team in place that understands business and what should happen next. I believe it should be a joint effort. You need a panel of business individuals to advise how we should move forward and advise administration and council.”
Much of the city administration’s current focus is dealing with current plight facing residents and municipality over the COVID-19 crisis, but Dilkens said believes the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corp. will be best-suited to address and advise on business issues going forward.
WEEDC just re-activated a task force group due to the current pandemic crisis that includes many sectors within the business community.
WEEDC’s task force — for which the blueprint was created during the 2008 global economic crisis — includes subcommittees that involves representatives from agriculture/food, logistics/border, hospitality/tourism, professional services/retail and manufacturing sectors.
“That group has been established and we have a voice (members) at that table,” Dilkens said. “Both myself and the county warden also sit on the board for (WEEDC), so the city is very much involved.”
A suggestion to “create a separate task force” would perhaps create too many voices offering advice and “lower chance for success,” Dlikens said.
“We will need to be on the same page and different committees would be unnecessary duplication,” he said.
Whenever the pandemic eases, the mayor said he expects entity in Windsor to be affected — whether it’s homeowners, businesses, industry, education, fundraising or the non-profit sector.
“Every facet of our community will feel some financial pain,” Dilkens said. “No one will be left unscathed.
“Right now, our focus is getting through what we are experiencing currently. We deferred taxes for 90 days to help people afford the necessities to live. Undoubtedly, we will have to pick up the pieces at the end of this.”