Mould Makers Urged to Focus on Foreign Customers
The Windsor Star/Grace Macaluso
The recently negotiated free trade deal between Canada and the European Union could open new markets and customers for local tool, die and mould makers, Sandra Pupatello, CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, said Thursday.
“I know you guys are busy right now; you have a lot of (auto) platforms to serve,” Pupatello told a gathering of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers. “Under this agreement, they (EU) are going to look to do business with us. Peugeot, Fiat, Renault, you should all be in front of those companies.”
Although the industry has bounced back from the 2008 and 2009 economic downturn, it has yet to reach pre-recession employment levels, said Pupatello, noting that the industry, centered in Southwestern Ontario, currently employs about 29,000 workers compared to 37,500 workers in 2008.
Pupatello urged the industry to take advantage of the current upturn in the auto industry by focusing on developing new markets and customers outside North America.
“I’m begging you to devote 12 to 15 per cent of your workload to new customers,” she said. “Things are looking good for us, but the players are changing. You need to look at a new customer base.”
Companies also must invest in research and development as well as information technology, added Pupatello. “When was the last time you updated your website?” she asked. “When you hear about social media, it’s not a bunch of kids on Twitter. It is a way of communicating that businesses are using. It’s the first impression they make of you. You must have a high-end, interactive, highly animated website.”
David Palmer, chairman of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers, said companies understand they must look outside the U.S. market for future growth.
“The message is getting through,” said Palmer. “It depends on your resources, but you need that visionary aspect of your business.”
The EU trade deal could serve as a catalyst for companies interested in looking to enter foreign markets, he added. “When you can get a trade deal with Europe, there’s always opportunity. The onus is on us, and it’s a challenge we need to undertake every day we’re in business.”