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OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES
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:
Workforce Development and Participation Strategy
The Workforce Development and Participation Strategy is geared toward engaging businesses and focuses on supporting workforce, training and pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship opportunities.
Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy
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
Regional economic and community development opportunities
Workforce Development and Participation Strategy
As part of the Community Benefits Plan, a strategy geared toward engaging businesses and providing employment opportunities has been developed and is centered on (i) workforce development, (ii) training and (iii) pre-apprenticeships/apprenticeships.
There are three sections to this strategy:
I. 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
II. engaging and employing Canadian Indigenous Peoples in and around the City of Windsor, Essex County and Walpole Island, Ontario and contracting their businesses
III. engaging, employing and contracting Detroit residents and Detroit-based and Detroit-headquartered businesses.
In addition, the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goal established for this project is 2.15% of the cost of the construction and engineering work needed to complete the Michigan Interchange and the portion of the Bridge located in Michigan.
Collectively more than 80 initiatives have been identified for implementation to ensure that Windsor, Detroit and Canadian Indigenous Peoples have opportunities for employment or to provide goods and services to the project.
These initiatives focus on ways to engage the following entities:
- General Public/Stakeholders
- Elementary and Secondary Schools
- Post-Secondary Institutions
- Workforce Development Agencies
- Partner with local educational institutions to identify research opportunities
- Participate in speaker series and offer mentorship
- Partner with apprenticeship organizations and local unions
- Provide ESL and job training sessions
- Partner with educational institutions to provide co-op/work placements
Indigenous Peoples Opportunities:
- Explore business partnership opportunities
- Implement First Nations policy
- Commission local artists to create community/art murals
- Partner with training organizations to arrange onsite training
- Increase awareness of skilled trades careers and support apprenticeship programs
- Require subcontractors hire at least 20% new hires from local region
- Participate in job fairs/employment sessions
- Identify and select pre-apprentices and apprentices
- Enhance the community/employment groups awareness of the project and skills required
- Host Business-to-Business info sessions
- Provide two-way communication with local subcontractors
- Provide online system to invite local businesses to submit information on capabilities and capacity
- Foster growth of small companies by purchasing goods, supplies and services under $25,000
The second component of the Community Benefits Plan is the Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy, a $20 million community investment focused on priorities identified through the two-phase consultation that occurred between 2015-2019 with communities, businesses, First Nations and other stakeholders in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. The Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy is comprised of initiatives that are consistent with the Crossing Agreement and the key regional priorities identified through consultation including: community partnerships, community safety and connections, economic benefits and aesthetics and landscaping. The initiatives target the Sandwich/west Windsor area and the Delray/Southwest Detroit area ensuring that the communities adjacent to the project are the ones benefitting most from the Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy.
In 2019, approximately $14.6 million (CDN) was allocated to 29 projects in Windsor and Detroit. These initiatives were identified to be implemented collaboratively with local delivery partners during the design and construction period of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project. A detailed list of these initiatives is available in the Community Benefits Plan (Spanish version).
In 2022, the project team accepted several new proposals and undertook community consultation to review the priorities of the neighbourhoods closest to the project. As a result, eleven new projects were added to the Plan, along with additional funding allocated to six existing initiatives. The $2.3 million investment is part of the original $20 million Neighbourhood Infrastructure Strategy budget.
Canadian Initiatives for Delivery:
Aesthetics and Landscaping Investments - $2.87 million
- Ojibway Park Wildlife Eco-Passage Planning Investment
- Sandwich Street Enhancements
- Sandwich Park Improvements
- Neighbourhood Green Improvements
- Tri-centenary Canoe Monument Relocation
Community Safety and Connections - $2.53 million
- Expand adjacent trails to the Gordie Howe International Bridge
- Malden Park Observation Area
- Bike Rack Design Contest
Economic Benefits - $997,600
- Sandwich Business Development Program
- Windsor-Detroit Cross River Tour – Canadian Features
- Culinary Student Training Experience (initiative not-pursued)
- Sandwich BIA Programming and Support
US Initiatives for Delivery:
Community Safety and Connections - $1.29 million
- Expand Adjacent Trails to Connect to Gordie Howe International Bridge
- Construction Observation Platform
- Bike Rack Design Contest
- Transportation Improvements
Initiative Expansion Allocation
In 2019, the project team did not allocate the entire $20 million budget, understanding there may be changes in community priorities, new opportunities or a need for contingency on some initiatives. To ensure the full $20 million is spent by the Plan’s completion date of March 2025, a process called the Initiative Expansion Allocation was identified for unallocated funds to be reviewed for potential investment at the 50 and 75 percent points in implementation.
This process was implemented in summer 2022, resulting in $2.3 million identified for 11 new initiatives and additional funding for six existing initiatives. With 2023 marking the 75 percent mark in the implementation process, the project team will share information on the process for the remaining $3.1 million to be allocated in early 2024.
Local Community Group
Established in 2019, the Local Community Group works with WDBA and BNA as informal partners on the implementation of the Community Benefits Plan. This group includes 16 members that collectively represent the communities of Detroit/Delray, Windsor/Sandwich, Windsor-Essex County and the Greater Detroit Area. The Local Community Group provides valuable input and formal linkages to the region which enables the project team to better understand community and stakeholder perspectives in the delivery of the Community Benefits Plan.
Delray Home Improvement Program
The Delray Home Improvement Program is a free home repair program for eligible homes or duplexes in the area surrounding the Gordie Howe International Bridge and US Port of Entry construction site in the Delray, Detroit neighborhood. The program represents a $4 million (CDN) investment being delivered as part of the project Community Benefits Plan.
Community Organization Investment
Applications are now being accepted for the 2024 Community Organization Investment initiative as part of the Community Benefits Plan. A $100,000 (CDN) investment allowance is available per country.