By Robert Tuomi
(WINDSOR, ON) – Some are wondering if the recent dog and pony show that Windsor mayor Eddie Francis and Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation head Sandra Pupatello delivered in Toronto, accompanied with a one-of-a-kind advertisement will generate any interest by investors.
From a marketing standpoint, it is doubtful that a one-time speech littered with hyperbole delivered in front of the Toronto Board of Trade will have any impact on influencing investors. As to the advertisement, its value is severely limited because it ran only once.
Advertising works on reach and frequency.
There is also a considerable question about the alleged veracity of the comments, particularly those of Francis. There should be concern that his speech could do more damage to the city’s reputation than good if the comments are not correct. Instead of a factual presentation brimming with strong, unarguable facts the mayor may have erred by using undocumented hyperbole and hubris, which has apparently become his standard approach to marketing the city.
A review of what the Windsor Star reported October 25 it seems, on observation, that Francis was not providing objective and documented information. His claims are questionable in my view particularly that the city’s economy has been, “diversified considerably. Our city today is more modern, more attractive, and we’ve reduced the cost in our city. The cost to live and the cost to do business.”
By my calculations, the cost to live and do business has increased dramatically. City taxpayers this year paid $51.9 million more in taxes – all taxes including sewer surcharges – than they did in 2006.
Although he claims he has lowered taxes, did he provide a comparison to other communities to show that his tax tinkering has made the city more competitive?
He bragged that Windsor Airport is being transformed into a major cargo hub. The city is paying off its debt and has made massive capital and infrastructure investments.
The airport is not being transformed into a major cargo hub. Competing with the private sector to entice a FedEx ground parcel operation relocated from elsewhere is simply moving things around and not creating new value. Francis has yet to even prove his concept nor has he explained how he will position Windsor against competition from five new cargo hubs across the border. The city may be paying off its debt as it is probably required to do under the terms of its debt instruments but debt appears to be rising at its utilities which is a red flag for investors.
Although he is correct in saying he has made massive capital and infrastructure investments, much is being funded by senior government levels. They also come at considerable cost to the economy which he does not disclose. For instance, his downtown waterpark will have him competing with the private sector in a very competitive industry. He has yet to release a plan on how he will fight the private sector for scarce tourist dollars. He also did not explain that his investments have diverted money that could be used to fix the city’s crumbling infrastructure nor that his projects could be expensive to operate and maintain. His east end arena loses up to $700,000 a year. Again another red flag for investors.
There is no reason to suspect his swimming pool will not be an equal drain on municipal resources as well. He also did not mention that to afford his investments he is taking draconian actions by closing the parks, pools, arenas and community centres that add vitality and life to neighbourhoods and that will make the city less not more attractive and paint a picture of a less than thriving community. This is also a big red flag.
Community was a big factor in Germany’s Dr. Oetker’s selection of London for a new pizza plant. In a Canada Newswire press release Dr. Martin Reintjes, Executive Vice President made that clear with this statement.
As a fourth generation family owned and run business we understand the importance of community and we are thrilled to become a part of this thriving community here in London.
Unfortunately, economic development marketing is a numbers game.
Words, speeches with big claims and pretty pictures mean little. The numbers always tell the story and are never wrong because they are put to considerable scrutiny and due diligence. No companies, particularly those with shareholders expecting returns on their investments, will make location decisions based on unsupported claims by an overzealous mayor. Considerable homework will be done and it is that standard modus operandi that could expose Francis and could threaten to leave a bad taste in any potential investor’s mouth.
Numbers like utility costs would quickly end any investor’s interest in Windsor. When Abbott Nutrition was searching for a location for a new nutritional drinks plant it looked at potential sites in Ohio, Indiana and Ontario. In the end Ohio won the bid. Abbott executive Brian Stirrat, in a Dayton News report of November 16, 2012, claimed that “utilities were huge,” and that is why Tipp City was selected.
If Francis consulted with a marketer he would probably be told to slow down and stop his speaking tour. Instead he would be instructed to return home and start the hard work of fixing his defective product. Under his watch Windsor has become a defective high cost product. That is reality.
Numbers speak louder than words and Francis does not have good numbers.
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