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Windsor could turn a negative into a positive


Driving around Windsor last weekend was pretty depressing. Empty new car plants; too many fast food and big box shops to fill in the employment gaps; basically it reminded me of Flint, MI in “Roger and Me” but on a less intense level.


The ‘Big 3′ of olden years are in a seemingly rapid, massive and unstoppable decline. GM, Ford and Chrysler continue to layoff and shut down production. Toyota is now the #2 automaker in the United States, with Honda close on the heels of #4 Chrysler. The original big 3 spent hundreds of millions of dollars building new plants that now sit empty in Windsor, ON. The city will not get back to the good old days of auto-town Canada unless the American auto-makers experience a renaissance, which is an uphill battle against Toyota, Nissan, and Honda.


What got me thinking were a few stories in the local paper as well as discussions with Kevin’s dad, who will be retiring after 38 years at Ford this winter, about the nature of the plants that dot the landscape and the skills of the workforce in Essex County. The front page of The Windsor Star on Sept 8th had two complimentary headlines: Windmill Energy projects and the new Dr. David Suzuki public school. Now, I’m not an urban planner, an environmental or industrial engineer, nor do I have any pull with anyone who is, but it seems to me that Windsor would be the perfect city to become the recycling capital of North America.


The city is ideally positioned at the centre of the North American transportation grid – the shipping & trucking lanes could carry recycling from NY, OH, MI, IL, Toronto, Ottawa, etc. to Windsor for processing. The currently empty auto plants could be converted to recycling plants; the land is unusable for anything but industry due to the contamination of the soil. The presses and foundry’s could remain in use with modifications for recycling steel, aluminium, etc. This type of project would dovetail well with the manufacturing that remains in Windsor, including the stamping and fabricating plants. The people of Essex County have spent their lives perfecting their trades and have immense pride in their work – it’s a shame the city is being hollowed out as industry changes when new technologies could flourish.


From a marketing perspective, being green is not a fleeting fad, it is becoming the norm. Why not take the changes in the sphere of public opinion and run with them; create a greener society and revive an economy at the same time?


[photo credit: Whatknot via Flickr]

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