The Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation has secured a high profile Chief Executive Officer in naming Sandra Pupatello to head the organization.
Pupatello, who recently put forward a bid but lost to Premier Kathleen Wynne to lead the Ontario Liberal Party, has been one of the region’s most vocal advocates. As the former Minister of Economic Development and Trade for the province, Pupatello brings experience and professional contacts to the development corporation.
“You need to sell the region and you need to have the ability, with a lot of credibility, to convince them this is where you need to invest,” commented Mayor Francis speaking about the requirements of the role of the CEO. “Sandra Pupatello and her resume as former Minister of Economic Development and Trade accomplishes a number of things: she gets us into board rooms, she gets us into corporations and she does so with a tremendous amount of experience.”
Francis and Pupatello joked about how Francis essentially courted Pupatello to accept the position and that the official media announcement felt like a marriage ceremony between the two.
“The Board and I and the Warden felt that Sandra was the right person and it took Sandra some time to figure out if this was something she wanted to do and if this was of interest to her,” said Francis. “I’m glad that she decided that this was something that she wanted to do.”
“It is a privilege for me to welcome Sandra to the WEEDC team. Her arrival as WEEDC CEO sends a strong signal to business: Windsor-Essex is ready to compete and show how profitable we can be. Sandra has been one of this region’s most passionate, energetic and effective advocates of our time. Prospective investors are sure to never forget Windsor-Essex after meeting with Sandra, and we couldn’t be happier with her decision to join WEEDC,” said WEEDC Board Chair Joseph Byrne.
With regards to approaching her, Francis explained that he invited Pupatello for lunch just a week after her failed bid at Liberal leadership.
“I invited her to have lunch, and at first she thought I was joking,” said Francis noting that it probably wasn’t the most appropriate time to approach her. “But I don’t like to miss opportunities and I wanted to be the first one to approach her and to put the bug in her and that led to many other conversations and discussions.”
Pupatello expressed that her greatest challenge as CEO is that expectations of her will be “very high” and that she wants to “do right by Windsor and Essex County.”
“It really is a matter of hard work, getting into the right places to make decisions and bringing those people to Windsor Essex … there’s no magic or magic bullet about it,” said Pupatello. “It’s hard work, tough sloggin’ and from a sales perspective, sometimes you hit one out of ten, so we better be hitting twenty.”
Noting that the economic environment is different from when she was the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Pupatello conceded that there is a need to be realistic about what there is to be had.
“If there’s ten opportunities in North America, we should get one of them,” said Pupatello. “We have to play the numbers and we have to be smart.”
Many have questioned whether Pupatello, who is also a Director at Price Waterhouse Cooper, would be able to devote enough of her time to her new portfolio and spend enough time in Windsor, however, Pupatello rebuffed such assertions.
“You can’t have the CEO of a development commission sitting in the office in Windsor because the decision makers aren’t there, they’re all over the world,” said Pupatello. “That’s where we need to be.”
Pupatello hopes that her history in the political sphere compliments her new role as CEO of WEEDC.
“I’ve always believed that Windsor Essex, when we do it right and things are going well, the whole country is doing well,” said Pupatello. “It’s in every level of government’s best interest to help Windsor and Essex County and I’m going to call out to them to ask them to do that.”
When asked how she hopes that her term at WEEDC plays out, Pupatello responded coyly.
“Give me the first year, and let’s have a look,” she said.
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.