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Monday, November 18, 2013

Economic Development Team to Help Non-Farm Heinz Suppliers

The Windsor Star/Rebecca Wright

The economic development corporations in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent have created a rapid response team to assist local non-farm suppliers who suffer losses as a result of the Heinz closure.

“We don’t want to see a whole other wave of closures based on this closure, so that’s the key – we kind of have to get ahead of it,” said Tracey Pringle, director of business retention and expansion for the Windsor-Essex Development Corporation.

A pro-active approach is being taken through an email that will soon be sent out to local  companies and stakeholders asking for assistance in identifying the Heinz suppliers in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent.

“So this is the initial phase, because we don’t have access to the supplier list for Heinz,” said Pringle. “When you think of equipment, conveyers, components …,  all of those external companies whose business is dependent on selling for Heinz, those are the ones that we’re trying really hard to identify.”

The email states there are a significant number of companies that have been key suppliers to Heinz for non-farm related products such as equipment, materials, logistics, packaging, warehousing, greenhouses, research and third-party processing.

Pringle said the team is looking to work with affected companies in the area to assist in finding alternate opportunities, potential government supports, and strategies to mitigate the risk caused by the closure announcement.

After identifying the suppliers, Pringle said the team will tap into partners to see what kinds of support is available, such as new customers or other processors who may be interested in their business.

“We need to understand who is at a really accelerated risk, so for example, if we had a supplier that 95 or 100 per cent of what they do goes to Heinz, we need to find them a new customer really quickly,” said Pringle.

“It’s a matter of really understanding what percentage of someone’s business is directed at Heinz and how we can replace that percentage of business before this closure happens in June.”

The rapid response team is made up of eight local representatives from the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation, Chatham-Kent Economic Development, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

“The very next morning (after Thursday’s closure announcement), that was our first order of business,” said Pringle. “I mean, Heinz is bad enough, I don’t want to be doing this again in six months. So this is really a massive response to a massive problem in a small community.”

Affected suppliers looking for more information can contact Pringle at tpringle@choosewindsoressex.com.

Windsor-Essex

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