Trevor Dauphinee, CEO, Invest Ontario, Stephen Paul, director, Community & Development Services, Counties of Lennox & Addington and Abdul Razak Jendi, investment manager, Sustainable Manufacturing, Kingston Economic Development were part of the presentation on EV supply chain opportunities in Eastern Ontario. Tinkess Photo
The Ontario East Municipal Conference (OEMC) returned to Cornwall for the 2022 version of the annual event. The conference, which took place over three days at the DEV Conference Centre (formerly the Nav Centre) featured an assortment of guest speakers and touched on topics ranging from how to attract new people and business to the region, on up to what communities need to do to be ready when new development and technology comes knocking.
The event was scheduled to begin with short speeches from local dignitaries, (Grand Chief Abram Benedict, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Cornwall Mayor Glen Grant, United Counties of SDG Warden Carma Williams and Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry MP Eric Duncan) but first there was a short video presented by The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG) promoting a contest they currently have running with the name “Date My County.”
“I’m looking for that special someone, someone who is up for fun, and craves adventure,” begins the video which plays on the idea of a dating app. The goal in this case is for the winning contestant to post regularly on social media about how good life is in this area. In return, they will receive up to $1,500 per month for 18 months in accommodation costs, whether it is for short-term rental like a hotel or Airbnb, a “regular rental” such as an apartment or home, or even the mortgage payment on a home purchase.
The idea, of course is to have someone from outside the area present an objective view of what it is like to live and work in SDG. The link to the video can be found at https://whereontariobegan.ca/datemycounty/
Things got a little more technical later Wednesday morning with a presentation about how communities can prepare themselves for cutting edge development, such as what you would find in the creation of components for electric vehicles (EV).
The example used in this presentation was Umicor, a multinational circular materials (metal recycling) company based out of Belgium. Umicor will be making a $1.5 billion dollar investment to build the first of its kind, industrial scale cathode precursor materials manufacturing plant in eastern Ontario. This will generate 1,000 construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs once operational. Through 2029 they project to produce materials that make up the batteries in 20 per cent of the electric vehicles produced in Canada, the US and Mexico.
So, what does it take for a region to take advantage of a growth industry like this?
(Over $6 billion in investments were recently announced in Ontario to expand and grow the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chain.)
Stephen Paul, director, Community & Development Services for Lennox & Addington says you must be ready, because investors won’t wait.
“It is really about having the land available and ready to go,” says Paul. “That to me is the number one equation at this point in time. You’re looking at the competition for the EV space and it became quite obvious to us in Lennox/Addington, Loyalist Township that there are not very many 300+ acres sites that are available, so we were able to jump on that and take full advantage of that.
“The land needs to be available, but you need to do your homework and understand what the industry is all about. You need to have the data at your fingertips and ready to go. They (the investors/developers) are not going to wait for three weeks for you to put your package together.”
Trevor Dauphinee, CEO at Invest Ontario says that there are also opportunities for smaller parcels of land, acknowledging that the cost of having industrial land serviced and ready to go could be a barrier for some communities.
“This isn’t just about 300-acre sites. I think mega sites are part of the equation but there are going to be all kinds of potential opportunities for small scale sites as well. Fifty acres has value as well in other places,” says Dauphinee.
“I totally recognize that some of the municipalities that are sitting here have differing financial capabilities in terms of some of these pieces.
“The province, as part of the agency created the Investment Ontario fund, which is a $400 million dollar investment attraction fund. That is specifically targeted at the investors, so it’s not for use, necessarily by the municipalities but it is a tool that we pull out when we are trying to sell the value of the proposition. It’s not our first choice, it is always about why you need to come to Ontario.
“Steven talked about speed, and sometimes speed trumps money, right? That’s always our first mind, but there is always the possibility of leveraging some of those dollars to support the investors who are not quite there in terms of making that decision.”
What? Community couldn’t benefit from that type of investment?