Invest WindsorEssex priorities for 2023 focus on landing supply chain investments

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

After a record-breaking year for new business investment in the Windsor-Essex region, which was highlighted by the landing of the NextStar Energy battery factory and Stellantis’s commitment to retool the Windsor Assembly Plant, Invest WindsorEssex CEO Stephen MacKenzie said the focus in 2023 will be on capturing the substantial investments required to support those facilities.

“Our priorities start with the bird we already have in hand,” said MacKenzie, who will take the local sales pitch on the road to Las Vegas for this week’s giant Consumers Electronics Show.

“We’re actively engaged already with supply chain companies for those investments.

“Our other priorities we’ll be in building small businesses and extending and expanding the women’s entrepreneurial strategy we have in place. We want to keep them growing.”

The other key pillar in the local economic development strategy in 2023 is preparing existing local companies on how they can get a piece of the more than $8 billion in automotive investments being made in the Windsor region.

“We want our existing companies to get the benefits of these investments too,” MacKenzie said.

“We’re making sure they’re ready and understand what they need to do to get in on this evolving industry. We’ve already held a couple of education sessions with local companies and we’ll do more of that.”

MacKenzie and vice president of investment attraction and strategic development Joe Goncalves got a start on the New Year in late December when they were joined by Mayor Drew Dilkens on trip to Seoul, South Korea to pitch the region to over 60 companies in LG Energy Solutions’ supply chain.

Some of those companies were already deep into researching Windsor as a site having visited the area before that meeting.

“We’ve had follow-up conversations and interest already from 12 to 15 companies from that visit,” MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie added landing the battery factory and Stellantis’s investments has strengthened the region’s sales pitch significantly.

The excellent relationship Invest WindsorEssex and the City of Windsor have developed with LG are the reason the company gave local officials singular access to its supply chain partners in December.

“It (battery plant) has given us tremendous street cred,” MacKenzie said. “It’s certainly been valuable in legitimizing us and improving our branding.

“If LG is investing billions there, other companies are thinking something good must be happening there. It’s been a real validation for us.”

Fortune 500 companies investing billions in Windsor area is also creating interest from companies that aren’t necessarily just automotive related.

“The battery plant has helped with diversification within our automotive sector with the new technologies involved, but we also have a big focus on expanding other non-automotive sectors,” MacKenzie said.

“We’ve got a lot of interest from the agricultural and other non-automotive manufacturers. We have a robust pipeline of leads from other sectors.

“There’s also transportation, warehousing, financial technology and other technologies.”

MacKenzie said among the biggest hurdles in 2023 will be meeting the demand for industrial land, producing the necessary workers to fully capitalize on the opportunities being presented and learning what the Canadian government’s response to the incentives offered in the U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act will contain.

“What’s really exciting is we’ve never been more in sync with our key partners — our educational institutions, municipalities and other local organizations like WEtech Alliance and the Innovation Centre,” MacKenzie said.

“Both the college and university will be with us at Consumers Electronics Show. They need to hear from companies what is needed in terms of staff and curriculum.”