COVID-19 presents opportunity for region to attract remote workers
Thursday, July 16, 2020
The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell
With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the move by many companies to allow employees to work from home, local economic development agencies are putting together a plan to recruit remote workers to the Windsor area.
The plan will be part of wider campaign on selling the region, but attracting remote workers will be one of the 12 featured videos.
“We’ve always had a good business case for remote workers to locate here, but COVID-19 is changing the way companies are thinking about a lot of things,” said Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation president Stephen MacKenzie. “The pandemic is terrible, but it’s also creating opportunities to do things differently. We see this as a nice complimentary piece to local economic development.”
In addition to the video, social media and digital platforms will be used.
MacKenzie credited WEtech Alliance for taking the lead in targeting tech workers, many who can essentially work from anywhere in the world.
The initial plan is aimed at recruiting in high-cost, large urban centres such as the Greater Toronto Area to start.
Debbie Landers made such a decision to leave Toronto in 1995 when she relocated with her husband to Tecumseh.
The former vice-president with IBM Canada now is working remotely as an executive for the Toronto-based high-growth equity fund Georgian.
“I was the first IBM employee in Canada and one of their first in the world to work remotely,” said Landers, whose husband is from the area.
“IBM wanted to test out employees working remotely. When Georgian came, I told them I wasn’t moving from Tecumseh.”
Landers said the region has the two things that most remote workers looking to relocate want — quality of lifestyle and an affordable cost of living.
Other key factors in the region’s favour include: community safety, access to the opportunities in Detroit, quality schools, ease of movement, access to a major international airport, entertainment and recreation.
“Every industry is significantly re-inventing itself and looking at enabling people to work differently,” Landers said. “COVID-19 has done nothing but expedite that.
“It certainly presents opportunities for the region to attract remote workers.”
Landers added the area is an attractive destination for remote workers in the last decade of their careers.
“They may be looking to get out of the rat race, but they don’t just bring financial resources,” Landers said. “They bring experience, might still want to work a bit and their mentorship skills will help local talent.”
Workforce WindsorEssex CEO Justin Falconer said the campaign represents a shift in the vision on local economic development that really began 11/2 years ago.
“The economic development focus has shifted to include more focus on attracting talent, retaining it and training talent,” Falconer said.
“It’s the driving force of business attraction. The attraction of remote workers is an extension of that.
“If you have talent, you will draw employers.”
Falconer said the realization more jobs can be done virtually opens possibilities to reverse population migration to the GTA.
“We’re looking at higher degree, Bachelors’ and above, higher income workers,” Falconer said.
“These types of workers are going to be critical to our recovery.”
Information systems analyst John Haldeman moved to Windsor from Toronto nine years ago, but works for Atlanta-based Information Insights.
Haldeman said the move has been a great success for his family.
He joked getting back the three hours of his life he spent stuck in Toronto traffic daily was worth the move alone.
“The focus of the campaign should be on what a great place to live this is rather than on the job,” said Haldeman noting that you’re bringing your own job with you.
“You have to give people that reason to even look here … because once you look, it really makes sense.
“Our reason for looking was my wife’s parents retired here from Hamilton and we wanted to start a family.”
Haldeman has become a bit of a salesman for the area. He has written blogs urging others to consider working remotely from Windsor-Essex.
“There’s an opportunity to make more of an impact in a community like Windsor,” said Haldeman.
The tech community is very welcoming. Unlike Toronto, there’s not a 1,000 other people trying to do the same things.
“You can be a little more special and make more of difference here.”
PERCENTAGE OF JOBS IN OCCUPATIONS THAT CAN BE DONE FROM HOME
(Source: June, 2020, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge Mass.)
Computer, Math – 100
Business, Financial – 92
Architect/Engineer – 88
Education, Training, Library – 85
Legal Occupations – 84
Management – 84
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, Media – 57
Office Administration – 51
Community and Social Service – 50
Life, Physical and Social Science – 36
Sales and Related Occupations – 21