Canada's auto capital named city of future

Windsor, Ont., is being called one of the "Top 10 American cities of the future," according to a list compiled by fDi Magazinie, a publication of the Financial Times of London.

Windsor, Ont., ranked among top 10 'American' cities by Financial Times of London

Windsor, Ont., is being called one of the "Top 10 American cities of the future" according to a list compiled by fDi Magazine, a publication of the Financial Times of London.

The magazine used a mixture of data and expert opinions, along with a submission supplied by the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, to rank the city on its potential for foreign investment, economic development and business expansion. The list is used by business and economic development organizations to make decisions about foreign direct investment.

Cities of the Future were chosen from 405 entries across North and South America.

fDi - Large Cities Economic Potential rankings

  1. Seattle, Wash.
  2. Windsor, Ont.
  3. Portland, Ore.
  4. Querétaro, Mexico
  5. Charlotte, N.C.
  6. Mississauga, Ont.
  7. Las Vegas, Nev.
  8. Raleigh, N.C.
  9. Cincinnati, Ohio
  10. Pittsburgh, Pa.

Windsor's second-place ranking in the "economic potential" category coincides with the Conference Board of Canada's expectation that the Windsor-Essex economy will outperform all other Canadian cities this year.

Jobs lost in auto sector

Windsor took a huge hit to its employment ranks when the auto sector collapsed more than two years ago and it is still struggling with some of the highest unemployment numbers in the country. But officials are optimistic about the region's potential recovery, citing recent large-scale investments in the energy and aerospace sectors.

Overall, Windsor and surrounding municipalities in Essex County finished seventh among large cities in the report, defined as having a population between 250,000 to 750,000. The region received two other top 10 rankings in the categories of infrastructure and foreign direct investment promotion strategy. 

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said it's quite an honour for the region.

"This is another positive step for us," Francis said. "It certainly provides us the opportunity to use this as a tool to further market our region, to further get our word out and tell our story, and to further promote the benefits of doing business in this region."

"This award is further evidence that Windsor-Essex is on a path of reinvention," Lindsay Boyd, chair of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation said in a release.

Intelligent community accolades

The City of the Future ranking comes as Windsor, the county and 48 community groups are about to make a pitch for the title of "the world's most intelligent community" this week. Windsor-Essex is among the top seven intelligent communities of 2011, according to the New York-based group, the Intelligent Community Forum.

The Forum measures workforce capacity and how a community uses broadband to reach its citizens. Windsor was specifically recognized for having strong tourism and agricultural industries and for the way it uses technology to keep government, education and health-care providers connected.

Politicians have said the Top-Seven designation has already generated interest from businesses looking to expand to the region, and many feel the money is well spent if it helps to promote the city internationally.

The judges from the Intelligent Community Forum planned to be in Windsor on Monday and Tuesday. The region is spending $240,000 to host the judges and make its pitch, and the province is forking over another $204,000 to finance the bid.

Kristina Verner, from the Centre for Smart Community Innovation at the University of Windsor, will be acting as tour guide for the judges. She said the tour would include a meeting with all the region's mayors, a preview of new facilities at the college and university, and a look at local health insurance provider Greenshield. The tour will also showcase Windsor's cross-border relationship with the U.S., she said.

Verner said the City of Waterloo points to its recognition in 2007 by the Intelligent Community Forum as a key development tool that allowed the city to attract new business and retain what was already there. She said the bid could show Windsor-Essex as a good place for businesses to invest.

The winner of the most intelligent community in the world award will be announced in New York on June 3.

Who benefits from a top ranking?

In May 2009, CBC Fredericton aired a report by reporter Jacques Poitras on the Intelligent Community Forum  and who really benefits from a top ranking. Poitras was looking into Fredericton and Moncton's participation in the seven most intelligent communities contest, speaking to Paul Thomson from the city of Moncton and the ICF's Lou Zacharilla. To hear the interview, click on the audio clip at the top of this story.