At what point do you just pack it in and give up? It’s remarkable that after five years and three separate requests for funding from the City of Windsor - all denied - the folks at the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator have anything left in them.
The Accelerator has turned to the community, launching an IndieGogo fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $30,000 to fund their move to a new facility after being rebuffed yet again by council at the recent tumultuous budget meeting.
The campaign, #CreateWindsor, to date has raised over $5,000, and its purpose is to help bridge the gap until the accelerator moves into its new building.
“I was disappointed most of all in our city, as a city it is very difficult to attract startups here, obviously unemployment has been the highest since 2001,” said Arthur Barbut, managing director of the accelerator, at the launch of the campaign. “We’re the only accelerator in the Windsor area, we really want to capitalize on the innovation and the growth of the creative community in Detroit and we think Windsor is ready for that growth.”
The Accelerator released their 2014 Economic Impact report, and the in-house report produced by the accelerator, the organization reported a total of 583 jobs created (233 direct jobs; 350 indirect jobs), housed more than 30 tenants, saw a total of 12 tenants graduate, and contributed $2.56 million in direct economic impact and $4.84 million total economic impact.
That doesn’t appear to be enough to appease city council however. In fact, Barbut explained he doesn’t think councillors who voted ‘no’ understand what the accelerator has achieved.
“I don't think they get it at all … we invited all of the councillors, we sent them our economic impact report … unfortunately it seems most of them haven’t read the information and a lot of them have refused to come to the accelerator,” said Barbut, resiliently. “We extend an invitation to all councillors to come for a tour, also we’re happy to open the books for them.”
Barbut explained roughly half of the companies house in the accelerator are from out of Windsor, citing the U.K. and India.
“We wanted the $90,000 to really start promoting the accelerator outside of our region and bring more innovation and more bright minds here,” he said, before adding that his high school entrepreneurship program which has reached over 3500 was designed to help combat brain drain to help “plant the seeds for entrepreneurship ... I think the city, contrary to what they say in their 20 year vision plan is kind of going against that.”
“I think it sends a very negative message and it portrays Windsor as a place that’s not business friendly, entrepreneurship friendly,” said Barbut, referencing council’s no vote. “We have a great opportunity here being next to Detroit … there’s over 17 accelerators in Detroit supporting entrepreneurs and startups ... Windsor has to do the same.”
When asked what he would say to members of city council who voted no, he responded: “Simple. Jobs.”
“Since 2001 we’ve been the highest unemployment city in Canada, which is unacceptable for a city with our great location and the great people who live here,” said Barbut, adding. “We’ve clearly invested our money in the wrong priorities and ultimately I don’t think graduates from the university or college want to work at a call centre.”
Donate here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/create-windsor