Collaboration, togetherness and resolve key messages put forth by Essex County warden

 

Warden Tom Bain delivers his remarks during the seventh annual Warden’s Luncheon last Friday afternoon.

Warden Tom Bain delivers his remarks during the seventh annual Warden’s Luncheon last Friday afternoon.

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex County warden Tom Bain touted the importance of collaboration, togetherness as well as the resolve of the residents of the area during the seventh annual Warden’s Luncheon.

The luncheon was held Friday afternoon at the Ciociaro Club and saw Bain speak in front of municipal officials from all seven county municipalities, the City of Windsor as well as numerous groups and organizations from the area.

Bain said he was looking forward to the rest of 2014, stating that the region’s unemployment numbers are improving. The unemployment figure sits at 7.2 per cent, he stated, down two per cent from the same time last year. Housing starts are also stronger, the warden added, and said the area is showing a “slow but steady” recovery.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “I suppose guarded optimism would be a better way to put it.”

The county government is doing the right things, he added, stating “the county continues to get its fundamentals right.” Bain, who is also mayor of Lakeshore, said Standard & Poors has raised the county’s credit rating to AA, up from AA-, and that AA rating is among the highest for a government body. The county’s outlook is also listed as stable, she said.

Essex County will also have no debt as of July, Bain pointed out.

Stating the county has invested millions in road work as well as funding trails, seniors homes, libraries and the regional physician recruitment office, he believed a good job has been done balancing those “strategic investments” against the tax rate.

“The county tax rate has essentially flat lined for ten years,” said Bain. “We continue to get the fundamentals right.”

Essex County has faced significant challenges with Bain using the Heinz closure in Leamington as an example. He said the region reacted well, and said new investment has come since to help try and fill the void with two new agriculture businesses coming to the county.

“How did we as a region react (to the Heinz announcement)? We engaged. It was aggressive, it was focused. The investments could not have happened without collaboration and teamwork.”

High-speed internet access across Essex County has improved, Bain continued, but said work on that issue must continue to progress.

“We can do better,” he said. “We must do better.”

In order to improve high-speed internet access, Bain said Essex County is partnering with 14 other counties in western Ontario to create the South West Integrated Fibre Technology project. The project would serve over 300 communities and three million people in southwestern Ontario, said Bain, although carries a cost of $240 million to develop. The warden added that along with design and organization of the project, funding sources are also being sought.

Diversifying the region’s economic base continues to be a priority, added Bain.

“Broadening our economy is not an extravagance. It’s a necessity,” he said.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis was one of the politicians in attendance and Bain noted the two have a good working relationship.

“The county and the city have a rich history of working collaboratively,” said Bain. “The county and the city are linked. Our prosperity is interdependent, not mutually exclusive. We must continue to work together.”

Bain outlined new companies willing to locate within Essex County, including the Dynament Corporation in Amherstburg. Dynament is a high-tech surgical device manufacturing company moving to the former Nexen building on Thomas Road. The warden also pointed out 11 local festivals made Festival & Events Ontario’s Top 100 list and that the hope to revitalize the local horse racing industry continues to move forward with 15 dates possible for Leamington this year.

“Essex County council has demonstrated time and time again that the status quo will not suffice,” said Bain. “Essex County can and does compete on the world stage. We have the capabilities, we have the will. More importantly, we have the leaders and we have the pride. Why not Essex County?”

Francis agreed with Bain the two municipalities are on good terms.

“We do have a very strong relationship,” said Francis. “I believe the relationship has served us well.”

In an election year, Francis said questions should be asked of candidates of how they would build on a regional approach.

“How do we build upon the relationships that were forged?” asked Francis, who is not seeking re-election and has accepted a vice president position with Windsor Family Credit Union effective Dec. 1.

Comments are closed.