Business incubator for immigrants will attract investment, jobs, says local lawyer

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Windsor Star/Brian Cross

Half the space in the new headquarters immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri is building on Ouellette Avenue will be for a business incubator for immigrant entrepreneurs, a project he excitedly believes will bring investment and jobs into the region.

“I’m really focused on extolling the virtues, not only of Canada but this region especially given its close proximity to the United States, as a great place for entrepreneurs to launch their business,” Kadri says of the new incubator he’s calling Startup Central. He believes it will attract entrepreneurs who access government programs such as Ontario’s Entrepreneur Stream which awards temporary residency to successful applicants, with permanent residency dependent on meeting certain targets with their new business. He believes a region like Windsor-Essex is an ideal location for these investors, most of whom now end up going to the GTA. He’s hoping the availability of a business incubator here will encourage more to locate in Windsor-Essex.

There’s also a financial reason for these immigrant entrepreneurs to locate here as opposed to the GTA, he added.

To qualify in the GTA, they need a minimum net worth of $800,000 and a minimum of $600,000 to invest. Outside the GTA, the requirements drop to a $400,000 net worth and $200,000 minimum investment. However, Kadri, who has 17 years experience helping entrepreneurs move to Canada, recommends they come forward with more than the minimums in order to be selected.

“Getting entrepreneurs to come here, invest their money in our community, is going to have direct and indirect benefits,” he said, in the form of direct jobs generated at the entrepreneur’s new business, and spinoff benefits for the companies that do business with them.

Startup Central would offer unique and functional workspaces, on-site management and mentorship, workshops and programs — everything an entrepreneur needs to learn how to do business here. These immigrant entrepreneurs are generally well-educated and smart, Kadri said.

“What they aren’t accustomed to is the economic environment here to succeed as an entrepreneur. It could be very different from say the Middle East or other places in the world.”

The enterprise will be funded from fees charged to the clients.

Stephen MacKenzie, president and CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corp., said that based on what he’s heard about Kadri’s Startup Central, it certainly would fill a niche here and would complement the programs already in place to attract investment. This region is very multicultural, with people from 125 different countries speaking more than 100 languages, he said.

“So I think we’ve proven to be a good place for newcomers and certainly, a program to provide that extra service, beyond just bringing the entrepreneurs here, but also making sure there ar programming and work space available to ramp up their business quicker and more effectively — more of a concierge type of care — that is going to definitely appeal to some of our newcomers.”

Kadri currently has about 1,400 square feet of office space at Tecumseh Road and Goyeau Street. He’s about to start construction on a new 5,000-square-foot building at 1567 Ouellette. Last week, city council approved incentives for Kadri under its Economic Revitalization Community Improvement Plan (CIP), intended to help diversify the local economy by spurring new investment in targeted economic sectors. A business incubator qualifies but a law office doesn’t, so Kadri is receiving half the incentives for a building his size. They are largely rebates on the tax increases that result when a new building is constructed on vacant land. In Kadri’s case, the savings amount to $108,451 over 10 years.

Kadri said the incentives are very helpful in developing his project, which is worth about $1.5 million.

“The more entrepreneurs we attract to the city, the more we diversify and strengthen the backbone of our economy,” he says in his application to the CIP. “This proposed new facility will act as a truly unique ecosystem for entrepreneurs who are critical to our local economy.”