Two local companies win federal grants

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson

On the heels of two local companies winning federal grants to help create cars of the future, Mayor Drew Dilkens was in Ottawa pushing for more help — which should end up modernizing the area’s public transit system.

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced $19.6 million for seven new projects through the government’s Automotive Supplier Innovation Program. Two of the seven companies are in Windsor.

The Electromac Group will develop hot-stamping technology to produce small components that are stronger and lighter, with the help of a grant up to $1.5 million.

Landau Gage will develop laser-measurement technology for automotive equipment, with the help of a grant up to $121,000.

Nobody at Electromac would discuss the free taxpayer assistance. But Ken Bishop, vice-president of operations at Landau Gage, considers Canada’s contribution invaluable.

“The federal and provincial governments in Canada are fantastic at supporting small industry,” Bishop said Thursday. “They’re better than any other country I know of.”

Bishop said Landau Gage has developed a great partnership, working several years with the University of Windsor to create “non-contact” gauges, or ones that use lasers to measure automotive equipment.

“This grant will help us bring those gauges to market,” Bishop said. “It’s good news.”

“These projects under the Automotive Supplier Innovation Program demonstrate how Canada’s innovative automotive suppliers are developing the green technologies that will shape the cars of the future,” Bains said in a news release. “Through our efforts, in addition to the budget 2016 commitment to extend the Automotive Innovation Fund to the end of 2020–21, we are helping Canada’s automotive sector to innovate, grow and improve its global competitiveness.”

Meanwhile, Dilkens met with Bains — who attended the University of Windsor — in Ottawa on Thursday, discussing auto and other manufacturing investment that could help the Windsor area.

“He recognizes the importance of the auto sector,” Dilkens said. “There’s a heightened awareness of the auto sector, in the context of all the stuff that’s happening in Alberta, where they’re suffering economically because of the drop in oil prices. When things are bad out there, it emphasizes the importance of manufacturing in Ontario.”

Plus, Dilkens was one of 17 mayors — part of the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario — who met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday. Dilkens asked about help with public transit and learned more about the $3 billion earmarked for transit across the country, based on ridership numbers.

“It’s going to be fair,” Dilkens said of the pending flow of dollars.

Dilkens said Trudeau seemed particularly aware of the needs of cities, which now host about 80 per cent of the country’s population.

“The prime minster was very engaged,” Dilkens said. “He certainly knew what was of interest to mayors in Ontario.”

Dilkens does not yet know how much money Windsor will receive for Phase 1 of the public transit investment in 2016 and 2017. But since that money is supposed to help improve existing transit, he believes Transit Windsor will be able to update part of its fleet.

For Phase 2, designed to expand Canadian public transit in Years 3 through 10, Dilkens says the community will have a chance to be creative.

But he already knows what he would like to see: a long-talked about dream for some in this area.

“For Phase 2, I think that’s when we start having a conversation with the county and start getting real on a meaningful regional transit system,” said Dilkens about a possible Windsor-Essex County bus route. “That would be good.”