Windsor’s manufacturing sector speculates about new federal investments

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Windsor Star/Derek Spalding

Industry experts in the Windsor region are optimistic companies can create new jobs through expansion after hints from the federal government about new investments in the manufacturing sector.

The excitement comes after recent comments from Canada’s Industry Minister James Moore, who said financial assistance for manufacturers will be announced when the federal budget is rolled out later this month.

That investment could come in the form of grant funding to pay for worker training programs or it could be through no-interest loans to help companies expand and diversify, said Sandra Pupatello, CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation. She would like to see more funding for things like new equipment and machinery — allowing firms to expand. Pupatello suggested this approach would be the best way to create jobs and boost the economy.

“Capital cost allowances for manufacturers allow them to invest in new machinery and equipment, which then leads to hiring new workers,” she said.

Moore would not give more details about the upcoming investments. His press secretary said this week that the minister stands by his comments made during interviews with CTV News and Global News, but no further details would come until the budget in released April 21.

Essex MP Jeff Watson declined to comment about the region’s need for new investment in manufacturing.

The federal and provincial governments already fund dozens of incentive programs, but few focus on helping businesses expand their productivity.

Companies like Anchor Danly are too big for some of the incentive programs. But they have taken advantage of funding that helps train new hires who lack the necessary skills to work for a company that builds tool and die sets for manufacturers.

The company is always looking for new grants that can help it grow, but there hasn’t been much in recent years, said Carl Powers, general manager of fabrications. He too would like to see more of a focus on grants for investing in new machinery.

“A lot of what we’ve been seeing is not anything different than what we’ve seen in the last few years. There’s not really anything new or revolutionary,” Powers said. “We’re interested in are areas to support expansion or new equipment to create jobs.”

Windsor’s automotive sector also needs a financial boost, said Matt Marchand, president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“There has been a decline in auto investment in Ontario, while in other jurisdictions around the world it’s growing,” he said.

Chambers of commerce have been calling on the province and Ottawa to create an automotive strategy overseen by an automotive investment bureau.

“We’ve heard rumblings about attention being paid to the manufacturing sector, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Marchand said. “If it’s true, we’ll be pleased with our efforts to get investment in the auto sector. If it’s not true, we’ll double our efforts and keep trying.”