My name is Irek Kusmierczyk and I want to be your voice on Windsor City Council for Ward 7.
My number one concern is the youth unemployment crisis in Windsor and the quality of our schools in Ward 7. Close to 30 per cent of our youth are unemployed and too many of our public schools are struggling. In any other city the local leadership would be ringing the alarm bells. I believe local government has a critical role to play in bringing school boards, teachers, industry, community stakeholders, the university and college to the table to solve this urgent problem. President Roosevelt famously said, “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”. I will make our youth the top priority for City Council.
Having a Vision and Building Partnerships
Residents are rightfully asking, what can a councillor accomplish in just one year?
Let me give you one example. In the last year, I built partnerships with industry, school boards, teachers, the university, college and other community stakeholders to grow the FIRST Robotics program in Windsor and Essex. In a year, we went from just one high school competing to 13 high schools and 10 grade schools – including St. Joseph’s and Tecumseh Vista. Together, we won the bid to host an annual Windsor Essex Great Lakes Robotics Regional which will bring 1,200 students from across Ontario and the Great Lakes states to our city and pump up to $1 million into our economy. These public-private partnerships mean the tournament will not cost taxpayers a penny!
Why does FIRST Robotics matter? It matters because Windsor has both a youth unemployment crisis and a skilled workers shortage that are eating away at the foundation of our economy, and this program positions our young people for jobs in a 21st century knowledge economy.
Another big reason the partnerships I have built matter is because the Ontario Government recently launched a two-year $295 million Youth Jobs Strategy. As the Director of Robotics and Youth Programs, I understand the youth file better than any other candidate and I have the partnerships in place to immediately go after that funding–to out-compete cities like Toronto, London and Oshawa–and bring those badly needed resources home.
The truth is, together, we can accomplish a lot of good for our neighbourhood, our Ward, and our City.
Being a City Councillor is about having a vision for what makes a neighbourhood and a city great, and it is about working hard to build the partnerships to make it happen. I have that vision and I have a strong track record of bringing people together.
At the heart of my 7 Point Plan for Ward 7 is the belief that Education is Economic Development, and that we need to bring more resources and partnerships to our schools. Take a look at this excellent Globe and Mail article that helps connect the dots between the health of our schools and the health of our neighbourhoods: ARTICLE.
Ι attended last night’s rally to Save Thoracic Cancer Surgery in Windsor and Essex. The turnout was terrific and the organizers and surgeons present should be commended for mobilizing the community around this critical issue. This issue is not just about saving thoracic cancer surgeries, but about keeping thoracic surgeons and protecting all thoracic services in our region. I know how important that critical service can be, because my older brother required thoracic surgery and care when he was a university student. He is now perfectly healthy, raising a family, and teaching biochemistry at a university. I still remember the drawing he posted on his hospital room door of a dinosaur with the title “Welcome to Thoracic Park”.
I have the great privilege of working with some of the brightest young startup entrepreneurs in Windsor and Essex through a program called DeskUP that provides business mentoring and subsidized office space in the Downtown Business Accelerator. Here is a great article about that in the Windsor Star. Click HERE.
You’ll here me talking a lot about the Downtown Business Accelerator that houses twenty five dynamic startups and small businesses under one roof who work together, share resources, expertise and costs. This is grassroots economic development.
The companies vary across different sectors. There are digital and tech companies like Daedas, Astral Social, Noxtrom Digital and Razzlewood run by entrepreneurs in their twenties. Chris Pressey Design is a graphic design outfit that services not only our region but also Michigan and beyond. There are other services such as Your Choice Paralegals and Enlighten Counselling Services. The Windsor Express basketball team have their offices here too. Stonethro Studies does professional video production. There are non-profits here too including our own WEtech Alliance and Junior Achievement.
You can find the whole roster here on the Accelerator website. Click HERE.
It’s quite amazing, and what is terrific is bumping into entrepreneurs who have moved out of the business incubator and have successfully gone out on their own to establish thriving businesses across Windsor and Essex.
If you get a chance, pop into the Accelerator at 720 Ouellette Avenue on the corner of Tuscarora. I’ll be glad to give you a tour!
Windsor has the potential to be an important player in the technology industry.
The students had 24 hours to design and build web apps and mobile apps using the Government of Ontario’s energy data harvested from residential smart meters. It’s called the Green Button Initiative.
The students came up with some incredible innovations, things that can be commercialized today!
Here’s the really cool thing. We invited the Owners and Executives of four local tech companies to serve as judges from successful companies like Red Piston, Next Dimension, AlphaKOR and iDream Interactive. Our purpose was to connect student programmers with potential employers who could also serve as mentors to help them launch their own tech startups in Windsor and Essex and create jobs in our city. All the participants will be taken out to dinner by the executives of these companies to further establish the kinds of personal relationships that lead to employment or leads to starting their own tech companies here in our region.
The winning team gets to showcase their innovative product at next week’s Windsor Essex Tech Show which will feature tech companies from around the area plus giants like Google, Blackberry and others. Finally, WEtech and local tech companies like Parallel42 and others will be working with the students to polish up their apps and submit them to the Energy Apps for Ontario Challenge in January which has $50,000 in prize money.
Like I said in the Windsor Star article, I want nothing more than to see our Windsor students outcompete teams from Toronto, Waterloo and London and claim the Top Prize.
That would send a signal that Windsor’s growing tech industry is ready to make a splash.
Dave Hall from the Windsor Star wrote an excellent article today about our program Supporting Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurs in Windsor and Essex (SAYEWE).
This program provides twenty Aboriginal youth 18-29 seminars on the fundamentals of starting and running a business. The top four participants will then be selected to launch their startups in the Downtown Business Accelerator with additional mentoring. The partnership we built to support this program are tremendous and include a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Union Gas, Royal Bank of Canada, CanAM Urban Native Homes, CanAM Indian Friendship Centre, the Aboriginal Education Centre and the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor, the Small Business Centre and the Downtown Business Accelerator. It has been a tremendous privilege working with our partners and our participants.
Interestingly, the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in Canada is the Aboriginal community, and yet they lack training in the fundamentals of running a business, such as a business plan, and lack networks of support. This gap was what motivated us to build this program in our region.
It is all about empowering our youth to create businesses and jobs in our region.
I spent an evening today with the WE Succeed Youth Leadership Council made up of young women ages 18-25 who are breaking down barriers that prevent them from entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as the skilled trades. One of the reasons I am so passionate about FIRST Robotics is because half the participants are girls and FIRST Robotics does a remarkable job of breaking down those cultural barriers that limit the potential of our young women in this regard. Less than 2 percent of workers in the skilled trades are women. Also, less than 10 per cent of engineers are women. That’s our loss!
Check out this great video of an all-girls robotics team from the Bronx:
We have a robotics team in Windsor that is made up mostly of girls including the Team Leader and Chief Engineer. If you are a woman engineer or woman in the skilled trades, make the decision to mentor one of our fourteen local robotics teams today, and help break down these stereotypes and cultural barriers that stand in the way of our girls. Email me and we’ll get you plugged in!
I emailed Windsor Fire Chief Bruce Montone a question about which nursing homes in Windsor (and in particular Ward 7) had automatic sprinkler systems, since only recently did the Ontario government make them mandatory for all nursing homes. Even though the Fire Chief has his hands full with National Fire Prevention Week, he was nice enough to respond quite quickly. Here is what he said:
With Respect to your question…8 of 9 Long Term Care Facilities within the City of Windsor are sprinklered with the 9th Chateau Park, currently underway and scheduled for completion by year end (Dec.31/13). As we head into 2014 All LTC facilities within the City of Windsor will be sprinklered. Hope this helps with the information you were seeking.