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Windsor ranks bottom 10 on list of Great Lakes regions for median income

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When it comes to making money across the Great Lakes region, newly-published data from the Fraser Institute shows Windsor, Ont., ranks as one of the least favourable places to do so.

A recent study published by the independent research organization finds a “prosperity gap” exists between Ontario and nearby American states in the Great Lakes region.

When it comes to median income levels, the institute puts Windsor 99th on a list of 107 large metropolitan areas in Canada and the U.S.

Navi Kannan lives in Windsor but is employed by a Michigan-based company. He works from home most days.

When he moved to Canada seven years ago, he had thought about getting a different job. The difference in wages on each side of the border made his decision easy, he explained.

"When I compared the wage that I'm getting in the U.S., it is comparatively lesser here," said Kannan.

"My current job [in Michigan] pays me well and they allow me to live here in Windsor. So I have no reason to switch my job," said Kannan.

According to the Fraser Institute, job creation in Windsor has lagged behind major U.S. cities over the past two decades.

Researchers said they wanted to compare median income levels across Great Lakes regions because they share supply chain links and often compete for talent and investments.

The data, published Tuesday, is updated to 2019. Since then, Windsor has been getting ready for an influx of new jobs with the NextStar Energy battery plant and the new acute care hospital.

According to Fraser Institute senior fellow Ben Eisen, these employers could push Windsor higher on the median-income list in the future.

"There's positive economic developments in Windsor that could very well lead to changes in the future, relative to other places, but catching up with such a large gap between these nearby big U.S. cities is going to take time," he said.

Part of the reason why more time is needed, according to Eisen, is because Ontario took more time to recover from the 2008 economic downturn compared to many U.S. cities in the Great Lakes area.

He added a slow economic recovery can hinder a region's ability to catch up to previous income levels, especially when compared to areas that experienced more robust recoveries.

"You fall further and further behind until you get to the point where formerly very prosperous places, like London and Windsor, that used to be higher in the rankings, are now far behind other places," said Eisen.

To turn things around, Eisen suggest all levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — push forward on creating "pro-growth policies."

He points to examples such as competitive tax rates, reduced electricity prices and more financial incentives which can attract business to set up shop in cities such as Windsor.

"The bigger challenge of 20-to-30-per-cent wage gaps with nearby cities is one that the city's going to have to address to continue to attract people and businesses to the region," Eisen added.

As for Kannan, he has no plans on leaving his Michigan-based job as long as he remains in Windsor.

"For me to get a similar job, I wold have to move to a city like Toronto or Mississauga. But then the cost of living is going to be higher if I move there," Kannan said.

"It's a more peaceful life here [in Windsor] so it works much better for me. But the amount of opportunities that you get across the border is higher compared to this side." 

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