It is with great anticipation – and perhaps even some relief – that I join today’s delegation to share comments on the Windsor Works economic development strategy.
My name is Yvonne Pilon and I am the President and CEO of WEtech Alliance, one of seventeen Regional Innovation Centres, funded by the Government of Ontario.
Whether it’s a fintech startup or a automobility tech giant, we support companies at all stages across all sectors of technology.
From supporting our annual client portfolio of over 200 entrepreneurs and companies, engaging regional tech talent to help them better connect to tech jobs and opportunities via initiatives such as Windsor-Essex FIRST Robotics, uniting the regional tech community via initiatives such as Tech Week, and promoting and celebrating our regional innovators and tech leaders, WEtech Alliance remains committed to our three key strategic pillars: Tech Entrepreneurs, Tech Talent & Tech Community.
Since its inception in 2011, WEtech has been an anchor in supporting and advocating for the Windsor-Essex’s tech sector. We have brought together industry, entrepreneurs, talent, mentors, government, academia, investors and Detroit partners to build a region that supports innovative businesses and people from across Windsor-Essex and around the world to grow locally and scale globally. Furthermore, we have brought close to $6,000,000 in investment to the region, through both public and private funding.
We commend the City of Windsor for spearheading the analysis of the region and strategic document that is in front of us today. We support the recommendations put forward in the report as it pertains to taking advantage of Windsor’s proximity to Detroit, investing in downtown districts, becoming a hub for startups and innovation, leading the future of automotive, and training, attracting and retaining the best talent.
As the report states, diversifying beyond manufacturing is the key to Windsor’s future. GM no longer see itself as an auto company. Distilleries no longer think of themselves a distilling company, but an innovation company. As technology continues to disrupt, how do we ensure we have the companies and workforce needed to build Windsor 2021 and beyond.
As a city, the opportunity cost increases with every student that leaves our post-secondary institutions and with every entrepreneur who decides to grow his/her idea in another city. We have seen first-hand the opportunity cost of not having an ecosystem for talent and entrepreneurs to thrive across the border. Larry Page, Co-founder of Google, Dick Costolo, former CEO of Twitter, and Eric Lefkofsky, the Co-Founder of Groupon were all alumni or residents of Michigan. What if they had had the talent, capital and community to thrive in Michigan? Could the next graduate or startup that leaves the city bring with them the next Google or Amazon? Is that a ‘what if” we want to risk?
The tech industry has become increasingly concentrated within just 5 Canadian cities representing 70% of all digital service employment. The deepening of these tech hubs present the next test for Canadian cities like Windsor. As larger cities attract more high-skilled employers, smaller regions are at risk of income inequalities, lower tax collection, etc…
I encourage you to review the two documents that we shared with Council that will only further validate the Public First’s analysis and the role that we have played and will continue to play in supporting entrepreneurs, talent and community.
Every city that wants to attract people, business and investment requires a startup ecosystem to serve as an integral part of its 21st century economy.
How we can we build a thriving startup ecosystem? Taking the recommendations from the Windsor Works strategy we can advance Windsor’s startup ecosystem by addressing gaps and opportunities in culture, density, talent, capital, and institutional support.
As I conclude my remarks today, a caution to Council, the successful implementation of the Windsor Works strategy is dependent on collaboration at every level. Partnerships among Windsor businesses, civic leaders, and taxpayers will set us up for the next 20 years of growth. We cannot continue to operate in silos as the future economy requires a more connected approach.
We are grateful for the leadership that the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, St. Clair College, University of Windsor and Workforce WindsorEssex has showed in bringing the partners together to reduce silos and more importantly, to bring funding, talent, companies, data and a spotlight to the region.
WEtech Alliance strongly holds the view that the need for the City of Windsor’s action through well designed public investments, inclusive convening and effective policy reforms that support a more diversified economy remains critical to economic growth.
A coherent strategy and long-term vision – one that everyone is behind and has a role to play – is what will make Windsor Work.
In the end, talent and entrepreneurship in the region will make the difference – anything we do, or don’t do, to promote those will either be our success or downfall.Larry F. Koscielski | Vice President of Process & Technology Development | CenterLine (Windsor) Ltd. and Chair of WEtech Alliance Board of Directors
WEtech Alliance is eager to share our decade of experience, our international tech networks and connect council to the voices of local tech Founders and talent.
We thank you for this opportunity and looking forward to working together for Windsor’s future.