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LETTER: Innovation, partnerships needed to redevelop Windsor’s textile mill

WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

Your article about the future of the historic textile building in Windsor (‘High hopes’ for historic landmark, May 14, 2019) is of great interest to me as the NDP candidate for King-Hants in the federal election.

If I am elected the Member of Parliament, I would advocate for federal funding (via the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) to help redevelop and repurpose the building as part of an overall economic plan for the town and the region. In addition to the federal government, other key partners in this redevelopment should include provincial and town governments, the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce as well as our local post-secondary institutions, to name just a few.

Government involvement in the redevelopment of the Windsor site is essential given that reclaiming, flood-hardening, and decontaminating the building will not be cheap.

The ultimate goal of this partnership would be to foster economic innovation through start-ups or existing private sector firms, cooperatives or social enterprises. This innovation should be geared towards future growth industries (for example, robotics, healthcare, green technology, et cetera).

My thinking about the Windsor textile mill is very much informed by my time in Philadelphia where I helped to rejuvenate and re-populate old (brick), light industrial buildings as a graduate student in community development at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ultimately, the success we enjoyed in Philadelphia was the result of a partnership approach that involved numerous stakeholders: landowners, municipal, state, and federal governments; the local chamber of commerce; local and national companies; the university; as well as community groups that represented the poor neighbourhoods living close to the furloughed industrial parks.

Each partner had a key role to play in the re-development, but all shared a common vision: redevelop the buildings to maintain their historic character while repurposing them for innovation in the future economy that can also cater to the economic and employment needs of the local community.

As Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker write in their book, The Smartest Places on Earth, towns that have been successful in revitalizing their economies have done so through "a process of innovation and the creation of products that involved collegial collaboration, open exchange of information, partnerships between the worlds of business and academia, multidisciplinary initiatives, and ecosystems composed of an array of important players, all working closely together."

The Windsor textile building and Kings-Hants as a whole can become one of the smartest places on earth. As your MP, I will work to make this type of innovative, partnership-based, sustainable economic development a reality.

Stephen Schneider

NDP candidate for the Kings-Hants riding

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