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October 20, 2010

Post-stimulus plan a concern for Windsor Construction Association

Ontario election

The Windsor Construction Association wants to know how city council candidates plan to help meet future construction man-hour demands created by the soon-to-be ending federal stimulus funding.

“ISF (infrastructure stimulus fund) spending has tapped some of our communities,” said Jim Lyons, executive director of the WCA. “We are concerned it may have created a large amount of man-hours this year at the expense of next year and the year after.

“Traditional spending limits are going to be hard to meet as a result of so much leveraged money put out this year under difficult timeframes.”

The 102-year-old WCA has over 300 member ICI companies and it is keeping a close eye on municipal debates to see which candidates address their concerns, ranging from infrastructure activity to site preparation for future investment in the city.

The municipal election is Monday, Oct. 25.

“There have been some dollars pledged to help Windsor fix Walker Road,” noted Lyons. “We are pushing the municipality to do that project to help fill a gap we expect in activity.”

Lyons is also interested to see which candidates are willing to address Windsor’s lack of investment-ready, sizeable, serviced industrial properties.

“Our community been a big manufacturing base and while there are still buildings available, we still have no serviced industrial properties or greenfield spaces of any significant size,” explained Lyons.

“ISF did provide funds for a sewer trunk line to the Windsor airport lands, and we are of the mindset to get a roadway in there as well, so if someone decides to build tomorrow, we have the serviced, new industrial land available for them.”

Windsor’s unemployment rate dropped from 11.1 per cent in August to 10.9 per cent in September, according to Statistics Canada.

The city’s still has Canada’s highest unemployment rate but that figure has dropped by 3.1 percentage points over the last year.

Also, Windsor’s economy gained 6,000 jobs over the last year.

However, the city still has some of the cheapest valued residential property in the country, which is a concern for the WCA.

“There are drops in the property value assessments and that puts pressure on the mill rate,” noted Lyons.

“We are saying don’t go there (and raise the mill rate), because we already pay enough in taxes.”

Though there is anticipated heavy job demand and activity associated with the planned Windsor-Essex Parkway, a lot of that work is not expected to begin until mid-year next year, added Lyons.

Windsor is experiencing some high employment on the civil construction side, and the industrial sector is showing some signs of hope with the odd contract for work from Chrysler or Ford.

“The economic recovery on the industrial side is showing some kind of life,” said Lyons.

“However, the man hours will never back to what we were used to seeing because there a fewer plants.”

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