Hopes are high that the new CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Development Commission can bring investment to the region's struggling economy.

Ron Gaudet will begin at the commission in February.


Ron Gaudet, who will take over as CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Development Commission in February, says part of what drew him to Windsor 'quite frankly is the challenge.' ((Dennis Porter/CBC))

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, he acknowledged Windsor's poor economic situation, and said that what many see as the city's biggest problem — the highest unemployment rate of Canadian cities — might also be an opportunity.

"When we think of 15 per cent unemployment, the reality is that means we have an available workforce," Gaudet said. "And a ready workforce with a lot of different skills or assets."

Gaudet drew "a lot of direct parallels" between Windsor and Moncton, N.B., where he was most recently the vice-president of fundraising and development at Atlantic Baptist University.

"Moncton had an unemployment rate of 15 per cent in the early '90s," he said. "We had vacant buildings. We had an out-migration of people. We had many of our major industries hit hard.

"Today, it has the lowest urban unemployment rate in the country, it has an in-migration of people, it has a diversified economic base."

Part of the attraction of coming to Windsor "quite frankly is the challenge," he said.

The vice-president of the development commission, Patrick Persichilli, praised Gaudet's "tremendous track record in terms of success in economic development."

Windsor has been without a steady leader at the helm of the commission since Matt Fischer was abruptly fired from the CEO post in April 2008. His replacement, Remo Mancini, resigned in February after criticism that his own company was earning $1,200 a day from the commission for consulting work.

Gaudet will move to Windsor with his family in early 2010.