Economic Development Corporation Working To Alleviate NAFTA Concerns

While the CEO of the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation is happy with the overall picture in the region, he admits NAFTA talks are weighing heavy on the minds of those in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors.

Stephen Mackenzie says plenty of behind the scenes work is underway to ensure the best outcome for business owners regardless of what comes from the negotiating table.

WEEDC has formed a NAFTA working group made up of several stakeholders to keep local companies informed.

MacKenzie says the uncertainty is the biggest issue.

"If there's a decision made, good, bad, medium, you can make a plan around it. With no decision, you're handcuffed. You can't take the risk to make the investment. So our companies and representatives are saying, "Please keep pushing for the deal."

He says many companies are putting together contingency plans.

"What we've been doing with our companies is planning for the worst. Plan for rain and then sunshine is a bonus. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does, if the tariffs come in, this region is going to be hit extremely hard. With the make up of our region, with our manufacturing base, our agriculture base, it would be devastating."

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CEO of the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation Stephen MacKenzie (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

MacKenzie says businesses are being realistic when looking for solutions.

"The companies have been terrific. Many of them have been through some of these challenges of up and down markets and threats and the experience, the advice that we get from them, the cooperation with them, I wish we didn't have to have that happening, but we're taking every opportunity to explore every potential remedy."

Mackenzie says, locally, possible business leads have dwindled since US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum.

But he adds, interest from international investors has increased since the Trump presidency as Canada is seen as a safer choice.