As the City of Windsor contemplates its economic future, a report going before council suggests Windsor make talent a key component of any strategy.

United Kingdom-based consulting firm Public First was contracted to research and develop an economic diversification strategy, aptly named, “Windsor Works.”

The report indicates automotive manufacturing should continue to be a major player in Windsor’s economic make-up. But it suggests the city should prepare for a shift in the type of vehicles being assembled, and get more involved in developing the technology and components in the emerging fields of autonomous and electric vehicles.

“Windsor should be the home of Canada’s future auto sector,” says report co-author, Blair Gibbs.

One suggestion is that the city do more to nurture and develop tech clusters with existing entrepreneurs.

“Talent innovators and entrepreneurs from the local pool are the single most critical factor. It underpins the whole Windsor Works strategy,” says WE-Tech Alliance president, Yvonne Pilon.

To make that transition — Windsor needs to combat a reality.

“If Windsor wants to be the future of this industry, it needs to think about its people. Its talents, its skills,” says report co-author, Rachel Wolf, who says Windsor needs to do a better of attracting and retaining talent to stand a fighting chance.

“Talent is foundational to everything and we’re not going to get the companies you want, the sectors you want, the growth you want without talented people being trained in Windsor and wanting to come to Windsor,” Wolf says.

Part of the challenge lies in changing outside perceptions about the city as a place to work and live.

“North America, probably the world, but certainly North America is at war, and it’s a war on talent,” says Windsor Mayor, Drew Dilkens.

Another suggestion from the report is creating a talent pipeline — through a dedicated talent steering committee, including the presidents of both the university and college, along with city and private business leaders.

“They’re the ones doing the hiring, and we need to ensure the alignment with what we’re teaching is what’s needed not only for the economy today but more importantly, the economy of the future,” Pilon says.

Windsor’s mayor says connecting the dots between education and the workforce will be critical.

“I’m excited about this, I think there’s great potential to form a partnership here to further leverage the work those institutions are doing,” says Dilkens.

The report is available online, and will be presented at a dedicated meeting of city council on Monday, Feb. 8 at 11 a.m.