After years of advocacy, the voices of Windsor-Essex residents were reflected in the Community Benefits announcement from the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The Windsor/Essex Community Benefits Coalition celebrates the wins for the community and calls for the success to continue via a Legacy Fund.
Thousands of Windsor-Essex residents have participated in consultations and engagement regarding the Gordie Howe International Bridge Community Benefits process. Since 2017, the Coalition has brought neighbours, stakeholders, and labour together around this $5.7 billion dollar infrastructure project.
Community Benefit Wins for the Community:
Focus on Sandwich Town: Revitalizing Sandwich Town was identified during the Coalition’s consultation process as a major priority. This neighbourhood will be most impacted by this development and already has one of the highest rates of poverty in the City of Windsor.
The Gordie Howe International Bridge is committing multi-year financial support to United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County for investment in the ProsperUS program to support the work of cradle-to-career with programming specifically in Sandwich.
Other initiatives in Sandwich: Annual $50,000 investment allowance for community organizations located in or servicing Sandwich for events, programming, and infrastructure improvements; Sandwich Art Project to partner with local artists and youth to create at least one mural or art project; $12 million in Sandwich Street improvements; Investments in McKee and Paterson Park.
Economic Opportunities for Small Business: The community has expressed desire for incentives to help local businesses take advantage of the new international crossing with new market opportunities and to expand operations to meet new demand as a result of the project.
The Community Benefits package announced an investment in a Sandwich Business Development Program which would provide business acceleration workshop series for businesses located in, or interested in locating, in the Sandwich area.
Other initiatives: Regional, Small-Business Procurement Protocol for purchases less than $25,000 where possible.
Honouring Heritage: Through the Coalition’s 2017 consultations, Sandwich Town’s unique history was emphasized, as well as the opportunity to promote the history as an attraction.
The creation of a Windsor-Detroit Cross-River Tour was announced through the Community Benefits package, which will feature the unique points of history and culture throughout Sandwich and Delray, Michigan. This walking/cycling tour will be developed with the consultation of local historians and residents.
Supporting the Environment: The 2017 Coalition research highlighted a community priority to preserve the at-risk species and demonstrate a commitment to ensuring a healthy environment.
In partnership with the City of Windsor Ojibway Nature Centre, the Gordie Howe International Bridge will provide seed-funding for an eco-passage bridge between Black Oak Heritage Park and Ojibway park, providing a passage for area wildlife.
Other initiatives: Host tree giveaways during the construction phase of the project.
Emphasis on Local Workforce: A previously announced goal of targeting employment within 100 kilometers of the new Bridge, as well as engaging and employing Canadian Indigenous Peoples.
On June 14th, the Gordie Howe International Bridge announced over 80 workforce initiatives on both sides of the border. Notably, a goal to hire at least 20% of new hires from the Windsor area for construction and permanent jobs.
Other initiatives: Partner with local unions and Ontario apprenticeship organizations to arrange trades training and mentorship opportunities for youth; support equity-seeking groups to prepare to take advantage of upcoming training and/or employment opportunities; language training for those interested in training and employment opportunities; training and mentorship opportunity for minorities and/or unemployed and underemployed people or minority-owned businesses from the Sandwich community to gain experience.
Building on the success of the Gordie Howe International Bridge’s Community Benefits Package, the Coalition calls on the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities to create a Legacy Fund. The current Community Benefits package extends $10 million dollars over five years. The Gordie Howe bridge will remain in the community for at least one hundred years.
A Legacy Fund would be sustained over the long term by applying a percentage of annual toll revenue. This fund could work to fund projects and/or groups to carry out activities or programs that align with community priorities. This Legacy Fund would also enable supports to be created for any unintended consequences of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project that emerge over time and to adapt to shifting priorities and needs as time passes.
The Coalition thanks the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) and Bridging North America (BNA) for providing leadership by including Community Benefits in the Gordie Howe Bridge Project. The Coalition challenges and hopes that builders of all infrastructure projects in our community will follow the lead of the WDBA and include Community Benefits in their projects going forward.