Dragon’s Den Star Digs Deep At Dairy Freez

By Tracy Pringle

Sometimes, Dragons don’t breathe fire. Sometimes, Dragons are heroes – selfless, generous and kind.

This marks the 10th year of the International Dragon Boat races in our region. It’s also the Year of the Dragon. If you’ve never seen the Dragon Boat races – it’s an incredible sight. Twenty-two people, ordinary people, in a boat including a drummer and a coxswain (to make sure everyone is rowing in sync), all pulling together to row massive boats in Lake St. Clair in a race to the finish.

If you don’t know why anyone would want to train for weeks or months, compete when they don’t win anything for themselves, then maybe hearing that the Dragon Boats are a fundraiser for Breast Cancer will help explain. There were two race dates this year. Cancer survivors and student teams raced on July 14th and corporate teams hit the water on July 15th.

I had to tell you that, in order to tell you this.

During the month of July, the production team for “CBC – The Big Decision” is filming in our region. They are profiling two local companies who are vying for investment to grow, innovate and re-invent themselves. The investment decision will be made by Jim Treliving, also an investor on “The Dragons’ Den.”

While filming at the Dairy Freez recently I was fortunate enough to meet a local man, Brian Bacon. Brian has been doing battle not with Dragons, but with illness for his whole life. He feels fortunate because many people have extended their hands, hearts and help to him over the years and he wanted to find a way to give back. So a few years ago, he did just that by raising money to support different causes: Big Bike for Heart and Stroke; Kidney Foundation and now, Dragon Boats with his team, “Bobbin for Boobies.” Why? His mom is a breast cancer survivor, and he has struggled with kidney disease followed by a fight with brain cancer. He’s a fighter in every sense of the word.

You’d think that someone who has faced adversity and struggle like Brian would be fearless. But when he was faced with a real live Dragon at the Freez , he felt himself waver a little bit. After all, Jim Treliving is larger than life – a self-made man and television personality with a billion dollar empire – and Brian wasn’t sure how he’d react to his request.

In between takes, Brian approached the Dragon and asked him for a donation to support the Dragon Boats in this, the year of the Dragon. Without hesitation, Jim reached into his heart and donated money from his own pocket, proudly signing his name on Brian’s pledge sheet. A Dragon supporting the Dragon Boats.

With people like Brian, and all of those in our community who participate, donate, support, watch, and cheer for the racers – our very own Dragon slayers – a cure must be in our future.

Check out www.dragonboatsonline.com to read about the event. Check out www.cbc.ca/thebigdecision to learn more about the show and stay tuned for details about how we can support our local contestants and for viewing party details at air time!

Tracy Pringle, Director, Business Retention & Expansion for the WindsorEssex Economic Development CorporationTracy Pringle is the Director, Business Rentention & Expansion for the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation.

Economic Monitor – How data helps drive investment

By Wendy Stark

When a national or global corporation considers whether or not to invest in a region, the decision-makers want to know whether the community will be a good fit for their business. They look for information about the population, labour force, recent expansions and relocations by other companies and anything else that will give them a sense of the region’s prospects.

Site selectors look at a community in a slightly different way. When they evaluate a region, they typically look for ways to compare it to other locations being considered by their clients. They compare statistics like the unemployment rate, gross domestic product, employment in various sectors and growth rate forecasts. They use these comparisons to make recommendations to their clients.

To community organizations and existing Windsor-Essex companies, statistics are important for their internal planning processes.

Every month, the WEEDC produces an Economic Monitor that provides a snapshot of the Windsor-Essex economy including useful statistics. Some statistics, such as unemployment rates, building permits and housing starts, change every month; others, including the gross domestic product and employment by industry, change quarterly or semi-annually.

WEEDC regularly purchases data from Statistics Canada and from the Conference Board of Canada, and gathers information from various other sources including Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Service Canada and municipal administrative offices.

Most important, perhaps, are the forecasts from the Conference Board which provide a glimpse into the future of the region. All of this information is presented in the Economic Monitor along with explanatory notes, giving potential investors and community stakeholders a picture of the current economy and insights into what’s in store for Windsor-Essex in the next year or two.

You’ll find current and archived issues of the Economic Monitor on the WEEDC website: View April’s Economic Monitor Now

Wendy Stark, Economic Development Officer, Windsor Essex Economic Development CorporationWendy Stark is an Economic Development Officer for the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation.

Business Retention and Expansion: How is THAT economic development?

By Tracy Pringle

In my role as Director of Business Retention and Expansion for the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, I’m often asked to explain how business retention and expansion fits with the overall goals of economic development in our region. It’s a great question, and if you’ve worked in sales, or purchased something that required service after the sale, you’ll understand how it works.

“After Sales Support and Service” is a critical component of any major purchase decision we make as consumers, and in good businesses, it’s an important part of the offering to their customers. When we purchase a new gadget, maybe a cellphone or a laptop, we might purchase a maintenance contract that will provide technical support and upgrades as part of our contract. A new car typically comes with some kind of warranty that guarantees support from the dealership or the manufacturer should we experience mechanical problems down the road. When we have maintenance work done on our homes we’ll usually look for a contractor who provides a warranty on workmanship.

Business Retention and Expansion is kind of like that. Our job is to assist local companies, whether they’ve been here forever or are new to the area, keep their businesses in the community. We offer training programs, facilitated sector seminars, access to current economic data and regional intelligence that helps them grow their businesses.

Why the focus on existing businesses? Because 80% of job growth in any region comes from the businesses that are already there. Businesses that are financially committed to their communities. Here in Windsor-Essex, there are approximately 12,000 businesses operating. Some are large, some small, and others somewhere in between; all of them contributing to our regional success.

Imagine the impact on our local economy and jobless rate if each of those businesses added 1, 2, 5 or 10 employees over the course of a year… I’ll share more about how we’re doing this in my next post.

Discover more about the resources we offer at www.choosewindsoressex.com.

Tracy Pringle, Director, Business Retention & Expansion for the WindsorEssex Economic Development CorporationTracy Pringle is the Director, Business Rentention & Expansion for the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation.

Entrepreneurship: Opportunities in a Tough Student Summer Job Market

By Sabrina DeMarco

Stevan Ljuljdurovic was a second year Computer Science student at the University of Windsor when he began his journey as a successful entrepreneur. When Ljuljdurovic first started his studies, he had no idea where it would lead him, but inspired by an opportunity to develop new technology and assisted by an award from the Summer Company program in 2008, he began offering custom software and web solutions to clients. Today, Ljuljdurovic operates a growing software engineering firm called Navetz, using the skills he learned while still a university student.

Ljuljdurovic is just one of many students who discover the rewards of entrepreneurship during their university years. If you’re a college or university student currently looking for a good summer job, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s tough out there. Finding summer employment is a challenge for many students during the best of times, but mix in today’s challenging economy, and job opportunities are even slimmer than usual as underemployed and unemployed adults vie with students for plum seasonal jobs.

Entrepreneurship is a great option for enterprising young people. Starting your own business can be a lot more fun and rewarding than slugging it out in a minimum wage job; you’ll make some money and enjoy the satisfaction of being your own boss while developing critical business skills.

Whatever your talents, experience, age or funds available, you can be your own boss—all you really need is a good idea and willingness to take the time to develop it. Services might include dog walking, gardening, painting, personal training or tutoring. Or, if you’re creative and you knit, sew, make jewellery, do graphic design or make art, you may have a product you can sell.

Check out more inspiring ideas from real student business startups here.

Typically, the hardest part of starting up your own business is getting started, so here are a couple of tips to get your inner budding entrepreneur on your way.

First, consider whether you want to start a seasonal business that you can pack up and close down at the end of the summer, or whether you want to build a business that will allow you to continue running (on a reduced scale) throughout the year. You’d be amazed by the number of students who operate their own part-time businesses while they’re in school. Options to consider include:

  • Providing a service: Make sure it interests you and that it takes advantage of your unique skills and experience.
  • Selling a product: Options are endless from cyber-stores to mall kiosks and vending carts or stalls at local fairs. Purchase clothing, fashion accessories or novelty items in bulk at wholesale prices and resell them for a profit.
  • Manufacture and sell simple products: Sell either directly to consumers at retail prices or in bulk to other businesses – retailers, exporters, wholesalers or distributors. Literally hundreds of products can easily be made from home, and with minimal training you can quickly learn how to sell at a profit.

Don’t forget that parents, teachers, and other adult mentors can provide invaluable guidance.

Take advantage of the resources and opportunities provided through your school, the Ontario government and the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre. The centre offers a variety of resources and programs to promote entrepreneurship as a viable career option and is committed to supporting the entrepreneurial spirit and skills of students and young adults through initiatives such as Summer Company and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

Apply to get your business going through Summer Company, an Ontario government program for full-time students aged 15-29. It provides hands-on business training and mentoring from local business advisors, and awards of up to $3,000 to help students start their own summer business.

Applying for Summer Company is a competitive process. Space is limited and the program reaches capacity quickly so apply early! Deadline is May 7, 2012.

Learn more about Summer Company and find lots of resources for young entrepreneurs by visiting www.windsoressexsmallbusiness.com.

Sabrina Demarco, Director of the Small Business Centre for the WindsorEssex Economic Development CorporationSabrina DeMarco is the Director of the Small Business Centre for the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation.

Business Development: A Cornerstone of Economic Growth

By Rakesh Naidu

The team at WEEDC, along with our partners are working collaboratively to strengthen the regional economy by executing a well defined strategy to deliver measurable results. Our efforts are focused on the five pillars necessary to strengthen the economy of our local community – Business Attraction, Business Retention & Expansion, Small Business, Marketing and Community Development.

I oversee the activities of the Business Development team, which includes retention and expansion as well as attraction. More specifically, we are charged with bringing new investment into the region, supporting existing companies, and assisting diversification efforts by leveraging the capabilities and historical strengths of the region.

Our team leverages the capabilities and unique advantages of our region to bring new businesses here. When we are successful, new jobs are created, our assessment base is increased and our economy becomes further diversified. Because of our inherent strength in the manufacturing sector, we are seeing investments in growing industries such as medical devices, nutraceuticals, aerospace, nuclear energy, water and related technologies, aerospace, and renewable energy. These diversification efforts must continue if we intend to evolve into a mature and robust economy.

Our regionally focused efforts have been successful in retaining and attracting several thousand jobs, but there is a lot more to do. Critics will be quick to point out some recent losses recently reported. However, the full picture must also include the positive steps forward. While we are saddened by those announcements we also have the knowledge of those organizations where our team’s intervention has helped them remain in our region. While these stories don’t make the news, on a whole the business community is experiencing positive momentum.

As an example our local companies in the manufacturing sector are very busy again. One of our jobs is to work with companies and help them find opportunities to diversify as we know that the auto industry is cyclical in nature. Hence, we continue to focus on diversifying and developing a more sustained business model that does not rely heavily on any one industry. Our BRE team supports existing companies by helping them explore opportunities to expand into new markets and diversify their product lines. We identify funding programs and watch for supply chain opportunities. In Q4 of 2011, StatsCanada reported that 21.3% of our region’s total employment was in manufacturing, including auto-related manufacturing, and this figure alone merits our continued, strong support for this important sector of our economy.

In today’s challenging business and political environment, expansion and creation of new jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. Despite the challenges, our team remains optimistic and committed to aggressively pursuing diversification and supply chain opportunities for local projects both large and small to ensure that we are creating jobs here. We are confident that the region will meet the challenge and continue to prosper. Together, we will succeed. To learn more, visit http://www.choosewindsoressex.com.

Rakesh Naidu, Vice President of Business Development, WindsorEssex Economic Development CorporationRakesh Naidu is the Vice President of Business Development for the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation.