Could the next plastics company emerge in Northumberland County? Absolutely says George Borovilos, director of economic development & tourism. “We have the necessary ingredients for a plastic company to locate here.” Plastics companies exist throughout the county in an area that has an excellent transportation infrastructure, a skilled labor pool, available industrial land, and the ability to leverage these assets through an excellent community college system.
The plastics industry concentration speaks well to the quality, work ethic and training that assists with job skills to keep the workforce competitive. The experienced labor workforce in Northumberland County is also noteworthy because “when you launch a new product line it is important to achieve productivity gains immediately,” notes Steve Rosa, Plant Manager of GE Advanced Materials.
In Northumberland County, the plastics sector has been identified as a “driving” economic force: growing in output, jobs, and competitiveness in the last 10 years. The plastics sector had a 3.5 percent employment increase within the manufacturing sector between 1996 and 2001, and plastics companies, representing all tiers of the supply chain, are located and expanding in Northumberland County.
Northumberland County is strategically situated at the edge of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) along the Highway 401 Corridor, the nexus of the nation’s trade and rail routes. The County is well-positioned to access the key Canadian markets of Toronto and Montreal and Northeastern United States through the border crossings at Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Kingston. Complementing the highway system is an extensive rail service offered by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific which provides for the efficient movement of goods across the County. Business and industry also have quick access to the deep water port of Oshawa, which is located a mere 45 minutes, to the west ,and to Canada’s largest commercial airport, Pearson International, an hours drive west, which offers freight and cargo services to thousands of national and international destinations.
Northumberland County also has the available labor pool and industrial land to meet a company’s future industrial needs. Within a 30 minute’s drive is a labor pool of approximately 450,000 individuals. “Workforce availability is one of our best assets,” adds Borovilos. According to a number of independent studies, workers in Ontario are well-trained, productive, and more affordable to employ than their counterparts in many American locations. Universal healthcare, through OHIP, covers basic medical needs for citizens, lowering the cost for the employer. To further reduce the cost to business, the Ontario Employer Health Tax Exemption allows private companies to write-off the first $400,000 used to cover employee health costs. That means that doing business in Ontario and Northumberland County is much more cost effective.
New employment lands for future industrial development are being planned to accommodate both local and external growth in the various communities within the County. The largest landowner is Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The Wesleyville Industrial Park is located on the north shore of Lake Ontario approximately 50 miles east of Toronto. The 1,700-acre site was acquired by Ontario Hydro in the late 1960’s for the purpose of constructing an oil-fired generating station. Construction of the station commenced but, for economic reasons, was halted in 1978. Since the 1970’s the site has been used for non-generation purposes. In April 1999, ownership of the Wesleyville site was divided between Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Hydro One. OPG received approximately 1,300 acres plus all the buildings located south of the CN/CP rail lines, and Hydro One received approximately 400 acres north of the CN/CP rail lines.
Northumberland County offers both municipally and privately owned serviced industrial land at competitive prices: much lower than other areas at a comparable distance, or further from the GTA. Many communities within Northumberland have no development charges for development, while the rates for the communities that do are very competitive.
Another key ingredient in Northumberland County’s success is the community college system. Sir Sanford Fleming College, which has a campus located in Northumberland County, offers recruitment support and training programs to assist companies and site selectors. These programs tend to be flexible which enables them to respond to both the needs of the local economy and those of individual businesses and industry, usually quicker than other educational resources. Durham College and Loyalist College provide additional training support for Northumberland County through Ontario’s active apprenticeship system which partners educators with business. The Ontario Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit offers a tax credit of as much as 25 percent to help businesses cover apprenticeship expenses. The Province of Ontario is committed in its efforts to boost the workforce development system with a recent announcement to invest $14.5 million in apprenticeship-training programs and incentives.
Related to education is the development of a partnership with the GE Advanced Materials and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), a project under the planning guidance of the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC). The federally funded centre will feature research and development, training and teaching, professional development in addition to a manufacturing component. “GE Advanced Materials, one of the most successful plastics-manufacturers in North America, has embraced the idea,” says Wendy Curtis, assistant general manager of the Northumberland CFDC. Rather than a single capacity of purely research, there will be research during the day and manufacturing at night. The intention is to be self-sustaining: to make money from the day that the doors open.
“This working relationship will benefit both partners, which in turn, will benefit the entire community of Northumberland County,” adds Curtis. “The centre will create a market presence, a brand name of Northumberland County as a competitive centre for innovation and offer a number of skilled and semi-skilled employment opportunities.” The project will also expand the “county’s human-resources capacity, attract new industry, enhance existing industries as well as encourage on-going development,” explains George Borovilos.
Complementing this initiative is the emergence of the Northumberland Manufacturers’ Association (NMA). Paula Johnson, executive director, explains. “The association is a not-for-profit organization that provides services to the manufacturers of Northumberland County.” She adds, “that the NMA offers many innovative and cost-effective opportunities for networking, advocacy, and training and development, helping its members to remain competitive in the global marketplace.” Through strategic partnerships with industry, government, and other community stakeholders, the NMA encourages and facilitates its members’ transition to High Performance Manufacturing.
Adding to the mix is Northumberland County’s landscape of rolling hills, unspoiled beauty, and cultural amenities. With a centrally positioned geography along the Highway 401 corridor linking key Canadian and United States markets, Northumberland County offers an excellent locational opportunity coupled with an enviable quality of life. The County is emerging as an Eastern Ontario arts destination with many local theatres, festivals, galleries, and artisans. Should residents want more entertainment options, they are fortunate to be an hour from the Greater Toronto Area.