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Dutch businesses look to set up in Windsor Essex


February 6, 2020
By Matthew Johnson

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Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation and Trade Mission Delegates stand out front of the World Horti-Centre in Naaldwijk, Netherlands. Source: WE EDC

With more than 2,000 acres of greenhouse operations and counting, the Windsor-Essex area is home to the largest greenhouse vegetable cluster in North America.

It’s no wonder the region’s lead economic development agency, the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation (WE EDC), has focused its sights on the Netherlands as a potential source of foreign direct investments. “We see a massive opportunity for Dutch companies to come to our region and not only set up sales and distribution offices to tap into the Canadian market, but also provide technical engineering support for local growers,” says Matthew Johnson, director of investment attraction at WE EDC.

Responsible for advancing economic development to grow and sustain prosperity in the region, WE EDC is supported by the Town of Amherstburg, Town of Essex, Town of Kingsville, Town of Lakeshore, Town of LaSalle, Municipality of Leamington, Pelee Island, Town of Tecumseh, and the City of Windsor.The focus of the organization is to develop and execute strategies to retain, expand, attract and help new businesses start up in the Windsor-Essex region.

WE EDC attended the 2019 Greentech Conference in the Netherlands this past June, along with partners from the Town of Kingsville and Municipality of Leamington. Representatives from WE EDC held 22 meetings with foreign companies looking to establish a North American presence. These meetings generated five high-qualified leads. One of those leads has since confirmed its intention to enter the Canadian market with a planned opening date of early 2020.

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe has also led to a significant amount of interest from European markets, specifically from the Netherlands, in the areas of agriculture and agri-tech. As such, WE EDC has increased efforts to land Dutch companies in the Windsor-Essex region. Specific provisions within the relationship provide tariff elimination on key produce and agricultural equipment, as well as increased labour mobility opportunities for companies looking to expand to Canada or Europe. With 98% of tariff lines removed, CETA opens the doors for Canada-Europe trade to expand.

WE EDC plans to attend Greentech Netherlands again in 2020 with a larger and more robust delegation, including representatives from local companies looking to invest in new agri-tech equipment and software. WE EDC will also partner with the Canadian Embassy in the Netherlands to set up business-to-business meetings, providing an intensive training workshop on the benefits of, and how to use CETA, for Canadian companies looking to access European markets.

“The Municipality of Leamington has a significant cluster of greenhouses, in fact our region has the second largest cluster of greenhouses in the world. This has a massive economic impact on our community, and connecting our local growers with global firms will only strengthen our municipality’s economic outcomes,” says Mayor Hilda MacDonald, Municipality of Leamington.

The WE EDC is also planning a virtual trade mission in early 2020 to connect local growers with Dutch companies looking to expand into North America. This event will allow local companies unable to join the trade mission to still connect with companies in the Netherlands.

“Our job as a municipality is to help create the environment for our local business to be successful. Events like a virtual trade mission will allow our companies to tap into Canada’s global marketplace” says Mayor Nelson Santos, Town of Kingsville.


Matthew Johnson is director of business attraction at the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation. He can be reached at mjohnson@choosewindsoressex.com