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From VR caves to good wine, here's how Windsor-Essex is being pitched at the NAIAS

Despite the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) opening to the public this weekend, business investment leaders from Windsor-Essex are already there — pitching the region to industry executives and auto enthusiasts.

"We're showcasing that not only can we build the next generation of vehicles, but we can lead in the development of the battery technologies," says Ed Dawson, senior manager of automobilty and innovation at Invest Windsor Essex.

Dawson is among those representing Windsor-Essex at the annual auto showcase in Detroit, which has being limited to the media and auto industry insiders this week.

This year's NAIAS — which will open to the general public on Saturday and run until Sept. 25 — has a focus on the transition to electrification this year.

According to Dawson, the role of Invest Windsor Essex, along with representatives from Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, is to teach auto and technology companies on the show floor all about what the region has to offer.

"We're here to really talk about the many great things that we have on our side of the border, whether it's our wineries or all the great food and tourism that we have," says Dawson, adding the pitch makes mention of the city's riverfront and proximity to Detroit.

But according to Dawson, there are unique qualities about Windsor-Essex that make the region perfect for a business to test or design their products.

For starters, the region is home to Canada's largest publicly-accessible virtual reality cave.

The VR cave, located inside Invest Windsor Essex's Automobilty and Innovation Centre on Wheeldon Drive, is currently used to aid in product development, simulation tests and skills training.

Back in April, Invest Windsor Essex unveiled how the VR cave could be used to simulate how an autonomous vehicle — with no driver — would pass through customs at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

"Let's help you develop your model. Let's help you develop the technology. Let's do that safe simulation testing for you. Let's help you take your product to the next level," says Dawson.

Among those also representing Windsor-Essex at the 2022 NAIAS is WEtech Alliance. CEO Yvonne Pilon says she had her eyes on start-up companies.

"It's so energizing to see all this new technology...Especially in mobility, companies are looking for testing. They're looking a new market to test in," she explains, adding Detroit has an "awesome" start-up ecosystem.

For Pilon, the pitch about Windsor-Essex starts with talking about the region's fundamental focus on electrification and how post-secondary students are embracing that shift.

Inside the University of Windsor's engineering building, the CHARGE lab (Centre for Hybrid Automotive Research and Green Energy) allows students to research, develop and design electric vehicle powertrains.

"It's all about building awareness about the ecosystem in Windsor-Essex, whenever it's the talent and research that's coming out of our institutions, the entrepreneurial support organizations, the $5-billion electric vehicle battery plant or just our city as a whole," says Pilon.

She adds, "I think there's a lot of opportunities, with Canada being a leader in this space, for start-ups to expand into the Canadian market." Top Stories

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