New St. Thomas VW plant will mean more jobs for Windsor-Essex too, industry pros say

Invest Windsor Essex says the area is even more attractive to supply chain manufacturers now

Samantha Craggs/CBC News

A new Volkswagen plant in St. Thomas will mean jobs for Windsor-Essex too as it helps cement the broader area as an electric vehicle (EV) hub. 

That’s according industry pros who say Windsor will be even more attractive to supply chain manufacturers when there’s another EV battery plant within a two-hour drive.

Windsor is already the future home of a Stellantis EV battery plant, which will employ about 2,500 people when it opens next year. Now Volkswagen says it will begin production in St. Thomas in 2027. The number of jobs is still unknown, but it could be in the thousands. The manufacturer calls it its first overseas “gigafactory” for battery cell manufacturing.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, calls it “another vote of confidence” in Ontario’s “lucrative battery ecosystem.”

“These investments further secure Windsor’s role as the checkpoint for Canada’s battery link to the U.S. market,” he said Monday. 

“It’s a huge win for suppliers who need multiple customers to bolster their long-term future here.”

Invest Windsor Essex is already courting supply chain manufacturers to locate here, says Joe Goncalves, vice-president of investment attraction and strategic initiatives. This just makes the area more attractive to them. 

“There are supply chain companies that we’re working with that are setting up here,” Goncalves said. Now, “from here to London, we can become a global centre for supply chain.”

Goncalves says his group is regularly in touch with Sarnia and Chatham so supply chain manufacturers who can’t find everything they need in Windsor will consider those areas instead. 

“We want them to stay in the region,” he said. 

Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s minister of economic development and trade, announced the St. Thomas plant on Monday. 

Mayor Joe Preston predicted “a very large plant with a very large workforce” for the town.

“We’re already clearing the land and getting things ready for as fast as a construction that we can do,” he said. 

With supply chain manufacturers following, Preston said, “in the long run, it’s maybe more than we can dream.”

Goncalves hopes so too. The St. Thomas plant, he says, is “wonderful news for us all.”

“It will be a crown jewel in working as quickly as possible to land as many of those supply chain companies as we can.”