Windsor listed as one of Top 20 places to invest in Canada

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


Windsor has been named one of the Top 20 places in Canada to invest by the influential corporate real estate and business publication Site Selection Magazine.

The magazine also listed Canada as the second best country to invest in the world in its annual Global Groundwork Index published this week.

“Site Selection magazine is one of the industry standards,” WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation CEO/President Stephen MacKenzie said Thursday.

“They have access to a lot data points to crunch in their proprietary index. It’s a very thorough evaluation.

“It’s nice to get an independent, third-party evaluation like this that you can show potential investors to say, ‘Hey, it’s not just us boasting about our region.’”

Edison Financial and Detroit’s Rock Holdings officials can attest to that, having recently expanded to Windsor.

“For us it was about talent,” said Edison Financial’s vice-president of sales operations Bekim Merdita of the company opening an office locally in March.

“We felt with St. Clair and the university, they have formidable technology programs but the students leave. We could give them an opportunity to stay.”

Rock Holdings’ Rocket Innovation Studios share the Old Fish Market building with Edison Financial and is a backer of the Canadian online mortgage firm.

“Proximity to the states was also one of the biggest things,” Merdita said.

“We could, before COVID, go back and forth to Rock Holdings headquarters very easily. The joint Amazon HQ2 bid with Detroit and Windsor really opened (Rock founder) Dan Gilbert’s eyes about the opportunities here.

“Rock wasn’t an international company at that point. Coming to Windsor, just five minutes away, opened up access to another 38 million people.”

Windsor also offered the companies affordable real estate, available space and a comfort level with the community.

Merdita said the Site Selection rankings and data collected by other independent sources are studied closely by companies when making investment decisions in new communities.

“I definitely pay attention and I know the team at Rock definitely pays attention to things like that,” Merdita said.

“It’s a good way, especially when you’re in the technology sector, to catch communities that are up and coming. They (Site Selection) are essentially doing the work for us.”

MacKenzie said it’s the third time in six years the Windsor region has made the Atlanta-based publication’s list, but the first time since 2017. The Top 20 in Canada weren’t ranked — only listed in alphabetical order.

MacKenzie said last year $102.4 million in new investment and expansion in the region created 1,038 jobs.

The U.S. slipped past Canada, which topped the index rankings in 2019, to reclaim pole position on this year’s list of best countries to invest in.

Within Canada, Ontario repeated as the best province to invest in and 11 of the communities listed as top spots to invest in Canada were in the province.

The index is a mix of proprietary data from Conway Analytics’ Conway Projects Database and a database from global infrastructure advisory and events firm CG/LA.

Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Rakesh Naidu called the rankings a wonderful marketing aid.

“It’s a validation of what we’re putting in front of investors,” Naidu said.

“Our region has made a positive attempt at investing in diversification, diversity of the workforce and increasing collaboration with Detroit and U.S. companies.

“There’s work happening on the border. Along with other infrastructure projects, it will allow for further growth.

“We have reputed educational institutions, strong manufacturing, agricultural and logistics sectors. We have strengths across many sectors.

“I think all of those things are being recognized (in Site Selection’s rankings).”

MacKenzie said despite the COVID-19 pandemic the Windsor region is continuing to attract interest from new foreign investors.

An example was the recent announcement by Mexico’s Eltromex Advanced Engineering Solutions to establish a Windsor operation.

“I’m pleasantly surprised at the level of quality of the investment leads were working on,” MacKenzie said.

“We’re working on leads from China, Mexico and Germany. These are serious leads, not kicking-tires leads.”

MacKenzie said the companies are from the advanced manufacturing, automotive, product and food packaging sectors.

He also said WEEDC has been engaged in serious discussions with the Dutch and German agricultural sectors about establishing a presence locally.