Windsor-Detroit economic partnership offers 'compelling offer to the rest of the world'
WINDSOR, ONT. -- An economic diversification report going before Windsor city council Monday stressed the importance of its geography in creating new economic opportunities in the city.
Titled “Windsor Works,” the report outlines four pillars as key to driving diversification: location, infrastructure, economic future and talent.
“This is really the nexus point, so you really want to take advantage of this,” says Bill Anderson, a University of Windsor professor and head of the Cross Border Institute.
He’s referring to a long-standing truth about this region — its direct ties to the metropolis across the Detroit River.
“It is much, much closer to the economy of Detroit than other cities in Ontario. And if you’re looking at an economic geography for Windsor, it’s very much Windsor-Detroit,” says report co-author Rachel Wolf or Public First, a United Kingdom-based consulting firm.
The report authors believe our location — next to Detroit — needs to be exploited in a positive way.
“Together, we think that Windsor-Detroit can present a really compelling offer to the rest of the world,” Wolf says.
An example of this already working today is Edison Financial.
“I think that cross-border collaboration is and will continue to be a very promising model,” says Hash Aboulhosn, the CEO of Edison Financial.
The Windsor-based digital mortgage start-up was founded Aboulhosn in 2020 as an off-shoot of Detroit-based Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage.
Partly borne of the Detroit-Windsor joint Amazon bid of 2017, Edison made its home at the corner of Ferry and Chatham Streets in downtown Windsor at the Rocket Innovation Studio.
Aboulhosn saw opportunity in those close links between the two cities — as well as a bursting demand for mortgages in the Windsor market.
“Being so close to Detroit has really been tremendous in that we have access to this brain trust of world-class mortgage professionals who are willing to get on a call with us and provide us advice in a moment’s notice,” he says.
There are currently 42 employees at the financial tech hub and the company is looking to grow its workforce exponentially.
“We’re hiring. Edison hopes to double or more than double its workforce in the coming years,” says Aboulhosn.
“They are exactly the kinds of companies we want Windsor to attract and take more advantage of its location to attract from Detroit,” says Wolf. “They are a perfect example of what we’d like to see more of.”
But the report also indicates that should Windsor seek to become a start-up hub, the downtown core needs continued work and concerted attention from city hall.
“A lot of what we’ve recommended are not huge investments in big symbolic pieces, but smaller investments in things that make the downtown more attractive and enhance those amenities,” Wolf says.
The report states other key infrastructure — like the new hospital — could foster a medical tech and Research and Development sector.
The other big project — the $5.7 billion Gordie Howe International Bridge — also provides opportunities galore.
“What’s the future of Windsor, well it all comes down to the border, it all comes down to our location on the border,” says Anderson, who studies those links every day.
He envisions a bridge that is held up as a model for not only smart crossing capabilities, but spin-off growth in the tech, logistics, brokerage and warehousing sectors.
“What sorts of new economic development can happen because of the bridge?” Anderson asks, adding private businesses need to start looking at ways, “the bridge can create new opportunities for new industries, or expanding existing industries.”
Thursday, CTV Windsor will explore the two other pillars in the proposed plan, the future economy and talent.