Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association opens Windsor office

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association announced Wednesday it was opening its first office in Windsor in the 72-year history of the organization.

The office will be in the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Engineering and will open next week with an initial staff of two.

“We want to have people working with our membership in person and advising us on the Windsor perspective to take to Toronto and Ottawa,” said APMA president Flavio Volpe.

“We want to cultivate and maintain current insight into what is happening with suppliers in Windsor and take part and lead discussions on opportunities in the industry.

“Windsor is unique, at least in the Canadian context and probably in the North American context, where there is a world-class cluster of advanced mobility technology applications all the way through to the tool and mold making and everything in between.

“It’s increasingly difficult to keep that pulse from Toronto.”

The APMA represents 95 per cent of all independent automotive parts suppliers in Canada. Its membership has grown to a record 240 companies and another 60 technology and startup partners on its Project Arrow zero-emission, all-Canadian vehicle.

One-third of the APMA’s membership is in Essex County, and Volpe said a permanent Windsor office has been a personal goal since he joined the organization nearly a decade ago.

“The University of Windsor is thrilled to welcome the APMA to our campus and looks forward to collaboratively expanding the scope of research and discovery efforts in the automobility sector,” said Dr. Shanthi Johnson, vice-president of research and innovation.

“This private sector partnership highlights our tangible commitment to fostering bold and impactful research and innovation.”

Volpe added its taken this long to establish a Windsor office because the APMA wanted to staff it with experienced, senior leaders from the automotive sector rather than lobbyists and analysts.

In convincing local residents Mike Bilton and Karen Speers to jump to the APMA to work fulltime in the office, Volpe feels the association has instant street credit.

Speers has over 12 years of supplier experience at Tier 1 and 2 suppliers and has held various roles ranging from human resources to assistant general manager. Speers most recently was with the Windsor Mold Group.

As senior director at APMA, Speers will build connections between industry, community and education partners with a focus on developing, retraining and retaining talent.

Bilton, who was with the NARMCO Group, has over 30 years in the industry working for Japanese, North American and Korean automakers and Tier 1 suppliers. He is also a past member of the APMA’s board of directors and past chair of the board of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers.

In his role overseeing supplier development, Bilton will provide a full suite of technical and supply chain consultation across a wide range of automotive disciplines including OEM supplier development, advanced engineering and assembly, product and cost management.

Bilton will also be the technical lead on the APMA’s Project Arrow 2.0, which will see a fleet of 10 to 20 Arrows developed with updated features and technology.

Volpe said it was felt the University of Windsor was the best site for the office given the presence of multiple members on campus.

“We had a lot of great options, including St. Clair College and member companies, but we wanted to be as close to the work as many companies were doing as possible,” Volpe said. “The university is where the biggest cluster of activity is happening.”