Naidu selected to lead Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce

Naidu selected to lead Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce
Rakesh Naidu named president of Windsor Chamber of Commerce
The new president for the Windsor Chamber of Commerce is Rakesh Naidu, who was the COO of the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation. He replaces outgoing president Matt Marchand.

"I'm excited," said Jonathon Azzopardi, president of Laval. He noted Naidu knows the manufacturing community well and understand their needs.

Leveraging what I have done with the WEEDC and making use of those assets and the information that I have so that the chamber membership can benefit from that, says Naidu.

Naidu leaves WEEDC to lead Windsor-Essex Chamber

Azzopardi mentioned the federal election next year, saying many politicians see Windsor as a swing area.

New President And CEO At The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber Of Commerce

"I think right now with an election coming up in the next year, he's going to be very busy," he said.

Aside from experience working at WEEDC, Naidu has been the director of several boards, from the Council for Great Lakes Region to the Essex Region Conservation Foundation.

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One of his immediate priorities will be to look at the steel and aluminum tariffs that continue to be in place.

According to Naidu, he wants to make sure this region has a voice on political issues and wants to work with upper levels of government.

Rakesh Naidu was given a standing ovation as he was introduced in the new role at the Chambers 142nd annual general meeting on Wednesday.

Labour advocate Ken Lewenza said Naidu is "a wonderful choice" but expects to have differences in view with him.

Naidu has spent the last ten years with the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation, most recently as the chief operating officer.

While Naidu thinks it's important to offer a fair wage to everyone, he said it needs to be dealt with in a manner that allows small businesses to plan for wage increases.

"Every place I go today, in retail areas specifically, you see signs that say help wanted," he said.

Naidu will start his role Dec. 12. At this point, WEEDC is still reviewing whether to find a new COO to replace him.

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Having spent the last decade trying lure businesses to the area, WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporations COO Rakesh Naidu will begin advocating for those businesses as the new president/CEO of the areas chamber of commerce.

Naidu will replace interim president Janice Forsyth at the helm of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 12.

What the chamber does and the role it plays in the economic development of the region really endeared me to this job, Naidu said. With what Ive learned, the network Ive accumulated, the knowledge base and the partnerships thats been created, I thought I could transfer that for this job and really make it work for the region.

Forsyth, who was filling in for former president Matt Marchand after he stepped down to run for Windsor mayor, feels Naidu brings the perfect skill set for the job.

Hes an excellent choice, Forsyth said. Hes got all the elements that will help create future success for the chamber.

Hes very familiar with the business community and hes used to advocating at the provincial and national government levels.

Retired Unifor national president Ken Lewenza Sr. said Naidu is well known to labour officials through his work with WEEDC.

The labour movement has had a great relationship with Rakesh through partnering with WEEDC, Lewenza said.  Hes always been open and transparent.

I see the Windsor chamber as an important partner in its role and I think well continue to have a good relationship as weve done in the past.

Lewenza acknowledged the chambers position on the minimum wage and labour law changes differ with labour, but that wont derail the relationship.

Rakesh Naidu, COO of WindsorEssex Economic Development Commission, has been named the new president of Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Chambers Annual General Meeting held at Hellenic Cultural Centre Nov. 21, 2018. Nick Brancaccio / Windsor Star

Naidu said the challenges presented by the USMCA and American tariffs on steel/aluminum are issues at the top of his list, along with economic diversification and tending to the smaller interests of the chambers membership.

Well be very vocal and visible, Naidu said. Well make sure our voices are heard and our concerns are addressed.

Ive got a good network with the provincial and federal government and key stakeholders. Well be leveraging that.

Naidu said now, with manufacturing performing solidly, is also the time to work at broadening the regions economic footprint. 

We need to leverage other sectors of business, like agriculture and food processing. Were a fantastic destination for logistics, warehousing and the transportation industry.

With federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau having given an economic update Wednesday and the provincial labour laws in flux, Naidu said hell be watching what the senior levels of government are doing very carefully.

For a long time we had an advantage on combined corporate taxes in Ontario, Naidu said. With the changes in corporate tax in the U.S. that advantage has been reduced.

Having said that, its important to offer a fair wage to everyone. It  has to be a fair balance, especially it has to be dealt with in a way that small business has time to adapt to such a change.

Rakesh Naidu, COO of WindsorEssex Economic Development Commission receives a standing ovation after being announced the new president of Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Chambers Annual General Meeting held at Hellenic Cultural Centre November 21, 2018. Nick Brancaccio / Windsor Star