New Windsor-Detroit partnership seeks to grow regional mobility investment

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello

Economic development leaders from both Windsor and Detroit joined together Wednesday to announce a new partnership to better promote the region as the perfect two-nation destination for existing and startup mobility companies to invest, locate and conduct business.
The signed partnership agreement, which includes the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation and Detroit Mobility Lab, was unveiled during an online panel session which highlighted mobility companies already in the area, available binational grants and tax benefits, plus the strong pipeline to technology talent emerging from nearby universities on both sides of the border.
Detroit Mobility Lab is a collaborative across the river that includes mobility entrepreneurs, auto executives, industry suppliers, academic leaders and service providers.
“The purpose of today is to talk about power of the region,” said Detroit Mobility Lab President Chris Thomas, kicking off the online session. “The Detroit-Windsor region has the potential I believe to become the most important in the future of mobility.”
Those who participated highlighted the possibilities of this region becoming a Silicon Valley-type location within the mobility sector — especially as it applies to the automotive industry and its growing push to convert vehicles to become self-driving and include numerous autonomous features.
Thomas said the new partnership will be “looking for CEOs and direct investment in Detroit-Windsor-Essex.”
Speakers during the online discussion highlighted how governments on both sides of the border are aligned to promote growth in the mobility industry in Windsor-Detroit and often help with funding support for small- and medium-sized mobility companies to locate their headquarters in the area.
The goal is to create a mobility hub that not only becomes known as the most prominent in North America, but also globally, said several of the participants.
“We already have a lot of great things going on,” said Matthew Johnson, director of investment attraction for the economic development corporation in Windsor. “We often don’t do a good enough job celebrating the good work going on.
“We are seeing a transition of the economy (locally), from manufacturing to automation and now creating a mobility hub.”
The uniqueness of the region of being able to tap into advantages of both countries will “allow us to become the expert in this,” he said.
Johnson was among those who noted how Windsor-Detroit for a over a century has a proven track record for working in tandem to develop that automotive industry through manufacturing and logistics.
“There is 100 years of experience in supply management and trade,” he said.
Given how Canada presently has fewer immigration restrictions, a couple of the speakers noted how the best and youngest global talent in the sector is primarily coming out of universities on this side of the border.
Attracting that talent to locate in Windsor and feed into many automotive-based research centres in both cities will soon create an even bigger cluster that is to everyone’s advantage — one that should continue to thrive for years to come.
“We want to know what companies are tying to achieve, then (the new partnership) can can bring in government and transportation sectors to help bring each company’s technology (to fruition),” said Justin Robinson, vice-president of business development for Detroit Regional Partnership, which is also part of the new collaboration. “All of us are committed to doing that in a way not seen in any other market.
“Somebody already in our market is likely looking for your technology and we will help you communicate what you can offer. We are inviting the global economy into something that is unique in Detroit-Windsor in a way companies can’t get anywhere else.”