Mayor: Western, city futures tied together

By Adela Talbot
January 24, 2013

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London’s future is on a global stage on which Western plays a vital role, according to Mayor Joe Fontana, who delivered his third State of the City Address Tuesday morning.

With no frills this time around – no holograms, poems, songs or malfunctioning robots – Fontana stressed the city has been moving on up, and will continue to compete for investment and prosperity. And the city’s postsecondary education will continue to play a role in this regard.

While Fontana made no mention of the now-scrapped plans for a downtown Western campus, he noted a core expansion of Fanshawe College, “an increased presence of the (university) campus,” along with a vaguely defined municipal push for internationalization, will give London an edge, making it a sought-after city for world-class education.

“The city is on the move, moving in the right direction, despite some strong headwinds,” he said. He noted London has retained its AAA credit rating for the 36th year – longer than any other city in Canada – the budget is balanced and he has met half of his job-creation mandate.

Businesses are flourishing with more plans for expansion, private investments and a revitalized core, Fontana reiterated. What’s next is bringing the world to London, and helping the federal government reach its target of 450,000 international students.

“We’ve recognized the need to retain grads and attract students from the world,” he said. “We want (international students) to study here, to see our city as a place where they can build businesses, put down their roots, to see London as their home.”

If each international student brings $40,000 to the economy, it’s not an unreasonable goal to want some 5,000 international students in London, each year, Fontana continued.

As Londoners live, work and play on an international stage, the research coming out of Western will contribute to great advancements in health-care provision and medicine worldwide, he said.

Fontana praised significant advancements toward the creation of a preventative HIV/AIDS vaccine coming from Dr. Chil Yong Kang and his Western research team, in partnership with Sumagen Canada. The mayor said revolutionary research from Adrian Owen at the Brain and Mind Institute, showing an ability to communicate with persons previously believed to be in a vegetative state, will affect health care around the world.

“It is staggering to think how this will alter care for patients. This is life changing, world changing, and happening right here in London, Ont. Our hospitals work with research and postsecondary education to provide innovation in healthcare. London is unsurpassed in advanced medical services,” he said.

What’s more, Fontana added, Western is bringing jobs to the city and strengthening the local economy, with its recent opening of the Fraunhofer Project Centre, bringing advancements for the automotive industry and the construction of lightweight composites.

“We have some of the best global players here in London. All we have to do is look for them. The world is changing and London is keeping the pace – in some places, London is setting the pace. It will be a global city,” Fontana said.


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