A key project feature is the inclusion of a Community Benefits Plan. On the Gordie Howe International Bridge project, community benefits are identified opportunities that can advance economic, social or environmental conditions for the local communities. In developing the Community Benefits Plan, it was important to the project team that the initiatives selected for implementation would provide positive outcomes for the Windsor-Detroit region and specifically focus on enhancing the communities of Sandwich and Delray, the neighbourhoods closest to the project area.
The Community Benefits Plan reflects community priorities and is comprised of two components:
- The Workforce Development and Participation Strategy is geared toward engaging businesses and focuses on supporting workforce, training and pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship opportunities.
- The Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy focuses on collaborating with stakeholders and community members through consultation to develop a community investment strategy based on identified priorities.
Early in the planning process for this project, it was understood that the delivery of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project provides opportunity to leverage a significant infrastructure investment for positive social and economic outcomes. That is why the Crossing Agreement signed in 2012 by the Government of Canada and the State of Michigan required the incorporation of a Community Benefits Plan for the Gordie Howe International Bridge project that covers both Canada and Michigan and includes direct input from stakeholders and community as well as their continued involvement, partnering with local institutes of higher learning, unions and others, job training and local job development.
Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) and its Michigan partners meaningfully engaged and empowered the Windsor and Detroit communities in all stages of development of the Community Benefits Plan. Bridging North America (BridgingNA) joined this consultation process after Financial Close in September 2018.
Between 2015 and 2019, a two-phase consultation approach was undertaken with Ontario and Michigan residents, Indigenous Peoples, business owners and community and municipal leaders resulting in over 230 unique suggestions for community benefits and engagement of thousands of stakeholders. Activities that informed the Community Benefits Plan included public meetings, one-on-one meetings, focus groups, a public survey, social media and direct correspondence.
Most of the submissions fell within five priority areas, including:
- local workforce and training strategies
- construction and operations effect on the community
- community safety and connections
- aesthetics and landscaping and regional economic
- community development opportunities.