If you drive about the City of Windsor lately, you notice large sign boards shouting “We did it!” The County of Essex and the City of Windsor have been recognized as one of the 21 Smart Communities for 2010. It’s a terrific recognition for a city that’s been hit hard but fights back during these economic times.
Windsor is the “Motor City” and long recognized as the hub for the automotive industry in Canada. When I first moved here, we lived just a couple of blocks from the Chrysler plant where the original mini-van was produced. I couldn’t get over a couple of things. First, there was the oppressive heat and humidity and secondly the Chrysler plant, along with General Motors and Ford Motor Company, worked 24 hours a day turning out vehicles for the public. Academically, there was the University of Windsor (a small university by Toronto, Waterloo, or Western Ontario standards), St. Clair College (big by anyone’s standards) and a couple of school boards with a significant French component.
Into this environment, my wife and I chose to live, work and raise our family. Ironically, I couldn’t get over the attitude of students – Windsor had the little city syndrome. Students in classes just couldn’t wait to go to bigger cities for careers. Even the local hospitals would ship serious patients to either London or Toronto for treatment.
Recently, difficult times have hit. It doesn’t take much more than to read the news to understand the impact that the hits on the automotive industry has had on our community. The standard joke was always that Ontario ended in London. In fact, if you take the bridge to the United States, you can miss most of the city on your way to the busiest border crossing in the world. I get to drive down Huron Church road every morning and afternoon to work and see the constant flow of trucks and vehicles going through Windsor to the United States.
Amidst all this, the area is struggling with a high unemployment rate. But, awesome people are doing things about it.
There are so many new startups that are available in the local industrial parks. St. Clair College is booming and the University of Windsor is expanding, building, and offering innovative programs. The two publically funded K-12 school systems are rich in course offerings and take every advantage that they can for their students. New schools like Lakeshore Discovery School and St. Anne High School reflect new ways of doing traditional business and offer incredible opportunities for the community. High speed fibre to all educational locations reflect the contemporary approach to having all students connected.
With all of this efforts for the community to re-invent itself and offering opportunities to all, it was terrific that the County of Essex and the City of Windsor were recognized as one of the top 21 regions world-wide as Smart Communities. It didn’t happen overnight; this has been ongoing and considerable time and effort have gone into this endeavour by a large number of very smart people. Congratulations to the region. You did it; things are turning around and looking forward as a community reinvents itself.