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Gordie Howe bridge community benefits plan focuses on job and business opportunities

Angela Gismondi
Gordie Howe bridge community benefits plan focuses on job and business opportunities
WINDSOR-DETROIT BRIDGE AUTHORITY

The details of the Community Benefits Plan for the Gordie Howe International Bridge project unveiled recently includes a Workforce Development and Participation Strategy with 80 initiatives geared towards engaging businesses and focuses on supporting workforce, training and pre-apprentice/apprenticeship opportunities.

It is intended that the initiatives included in the community benefits plan for the bridge, which will connect the cities of Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, will have a positive social, economic and environmental impact on both sides of the border, said Mark Marymee, communications manager for Bridging North America.

“For training and education opportunities we will be partnering with apprenticeship organizations and local unions,” said Marymee at the announcement. “We will partner with educational institutions to provide co-op and worker placement opportunities… To ensure Windsor-Detroit residents and Indigenous peoples are aware of employment opportunities we’ve established a goal that subcontractors hire at least 20 per cent of new hires from this region, we will identify and select pre-apprentices and apprentices for the project and we will enhance awareness among community employment groups of the project and the skills that are required.”

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project is being delivered through a public-private partnership. Preferred proponent Bridging North America, comprised of Dragados Canada, Fluor, Aecon and ACS Infrastructure, reached financial close in September 2018 and officially became Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority’s (WDBA) private-sector partner responsible to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Canadian and U.S. Ports of Entry and the bridge. It is also responsible for delivering the Community Benefits Plan.

The workforce strategy focuses on creating and making accessible jobs, training and contracting opportunities to local workers and contractors, indicates the plan. It states at least $250 million of the total value of the work during the design-build phase in Canada will be performed by, contracted to, or supplied by the workers or contractors located in the City of Windsor, Essex County or within 100 kilometres of the City of Windsor. Also part of the plan is engaging and employing Canadian Indigenous Peoples in and around the City of Windsor, Essex County and Walpole Island, Ont. and contracting their businesses and engaging, employing and contracting Detroit residents and Detroit-based businesses.

The second component of the Community Benefits Plan is the Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy, a $20 million community investment on both sides of the border. Following a comprehensive consultation process, 29 initiatives have been identified in the strategy for implementation in Windsor, Detroit and Walpole Island First Nation and includes approximately $8.1 million for aesthetics and landscaping; approximately $3.5 million for community safety and connections; approximately $2.2 million for community partnerships; and approximately $1.1 million for economic benefits.

The first phase of the consultation process ran from 2015 to 2018. The consultation resulted in over 230 unique ideas that were provided from members of the community including residents, businesses, institutions and First Nations.

Due to the fact that people wanted an additional opportunity to provide input into the plan before it was finalized, a second six-month consultation period was added that began after financial close and ran until March.

“During phase two of the consultation process we further refined those ideas down and those were the topics that were consulted on during the last six months a number of those made it into the final plan,” said Stephanie Campeau, director of stakeholder relations for WDBA. “They may not have looked the way they did in the beginning but we are confident that the initiatives that have been put forward are more reflective of the community needs and also reflect what we have heard from the community in the last four years.”

The plan also includes the construction of an observation platform.

“This is a significant piece of infrastructure being built and it doesn’t happen often so we heard a lot from people who want to come and watch the construction,” said Campeau. “While we are happy to support that, we don’t want them on the construction site for obvious reasons, it would be unsafe, so we will be partnering with the City of Windsor to build an observation platform on the top of Malden Park that would allow safe access.”

Some of the other highlights on the Canadian side of the bridge include expanding adjacent trails to connect to the bridge, the Ojibway Park Wildlife Eco-Passage Investment for species at risk, and a community grant to the Walpole Island First Nation to help fund the expansion of its existing recreation centre.

U.S. highlights include the Community Home Repair Program in Delray where eligible homeowners could qualify for improvements to roofs, furnaces, windows and insulation. Similar to the highlights for the Canadian plan, investments will be made to expand adjacent trails to connect to the bridge and an observation platform will also be built to view construction of the project. There will also be an investment in facility repairs and programming at Delray House which is managed by People’s Community Service.

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