Pupatello hopes Windsor Can Secure Piece of Cisco’s $4-billion Investment in Ontario

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello

Sandra Pupatello hopes to convince Cisco Systems Canada to invest in Windsor a portion of Friday’s announcement the company will invest up to $4 billion in Ontario and create up to 1,700 high-tech jobs.

The CEO of the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation said she has a long-standing relationship with Paul Zed, advisory board chairman of Cisco Systems Canada.

She had already scheduled to meet with Zed in Windsor next month to review possible opportunities for his company at the University of Windsor’s planned Institute for Border Logistics and Security which will soon open at the airport.

“I can say he will be here in January and I will be sitting down to have discussions with him,” Pupatello said. “The initial discussion will be about the border institute, but it also gives me a chance to talk about (the job announcement).”

Cisco Canada president Nitin Kawale said his company will add up to 1,700 high-tech jobs within the first six years in Ontario with a focus on research and development.

“This initiative will also ensure that Ontario continues to be a leader in the information and communications technology industry with a vast talent pool representing the country’s next generation of innovation,” Kawale said.

Ontario’s government will provide a grant up to $220 million to support the initiative according to Premier Kathleen Wynne, who attended the announcement.

Much of the job creation will be focused around Toronto and Ottawa, according to Cisco.

But Pupatello believes other communities across the province could benefit as Cisco rolls out its plans.

Pupatello, a former longtime provincial MPP and cabinet minister, indicated Friday she has known and crossed paths with Zed over many years.

Zed, along with being board chairman for Cisco Systems Canada since 2009, is also a former federal Liberal MP under the Chretien government. He followed that with a tenure as chief of staff and chief strategist for former Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff.

“I already talked to him today to congratulate him on the announcement,” Pupatello said.

She mentioned also being connected with Zed during a previous Ontario government investment in Cisco during her tenure as economic development and trade minister.

“The details on this announcement are not clear, but as they sort out we will look at what we might do in terms of our university’s capabilities then find out whether there might be a chance (for Cisco investment and jobs in Windsor),” Pupatello said.

Cisco indicated Friday it hopes to grow its Ontario workforce to 5,000 within the next 10 years.

Much of Cisco’s focus in rolling out the investment will be connected with research at the university level, Pupatello said.

“(Zed’s visit in January) will give him a chance to learn about the capabilities of our university,” she said. “This at least gives us a chance to talk about this.”

The announcement comes at a welcomed time in Ontario after H.J. Heinz said it will close its plant in Leamington after 104 years, eliminating 740 jobs. That was followed last week by Kellogg Co. saying it will shut down its London plant, resulting in the loss of more than 500 more jobs.

Faltering Waterloo-based Blackberry also cut close to 500 jobs in recent months in Ontario as part of 4,500 job losses – accounting for 40 per cent of its global workforce.

Wynne described the Cisco announcement as the largest job-creating investment in Ontario’s high-tech sector and strong vote of confidence for the province’s workforce.

“My vision for Ontario is that it’s a place where government makes smart, forward-looking investments that build a modern work force in a truly 21st-century economy,” Wynne said.