Technology firm with global reach opening new factory in Windsor area

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

The local technology ecosystem added a new piece to the puzzle with Convoy Technologies Inc. announcing it has chosen the Windsor area as the site for a new production facility.

The Indiana-based company expects the plant to be operational this fall. It said it will start with 15 employees and ramp up to about 50 people.

Convoy manufactures cameras, monitors and accessories to provide cloud-based telematics services and artificial intelligence-powered driver training systems for heavy-duty on- and off-road vehicles and power sports usage.

“We evaluated Windsor, Indiana and Mexico and, once we considered everything, Windsor made the most sense,” said Convoy Technologies president Ron Harker.

“Windsor has proximity to our Fort Wayne (Indiana) distribution centre. We don’t face the security issues we’d have in Mexico.

“There’s a good labour market here. The manufacturing infrastructure exists in the auto sector that we can leverage.”

Harker added a big drawing card was the University of Windsor. The collaboration opportunities and the pipeline of talent will be particularly important to the company’s long-term plans.

He said he plans to also reach out to St. Clair College.

“We met with the university people and they’re doing some amazing things in advanced manufacturing there,” said Harker, who called the city a “hidden gem whose moment has come” with companies looking to re-shore to North America and the new opportunities on the horizon.

“We’re going to do most of our research and development at the Windsor plant. We’re going to need mechanical, electrical and software engineers.”

Convoy Technologies was founded in 2008 and currently has 13 employees in Fort Wayne, two at its Hong Kong office and one in Japan.

The company has narrowed its local site search to a pair of locations and is currently trying to finalize a lease agreement. Both sites under consideration are in Tecumseh.

“We made contact with them in September 2022,” said Joe Goncalves, Invest WindsorEssex’s vice-president of investment attraction and strategic initiatives.

“We continue to try and attract companies that will diversify our base. This fits into that category. They’re a great addition to our area.”

Goncalves told the Star news of the company’s arrival was only days old when he already received a call from one local trucking company that wants to connect.

The Windsor plant will be Convoy Technologies’ only production facility. The company will be re-shoring current production from China.

Harker said Windsor’s geographical location and excellent transportation links were major factors in the company’s efforts to shorten and domesticate its supply chain.

“The Gordie Howe bridge was absolutely a huge factor in our decision,” Harker said. “Already 20 to 30 per cent of all trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses the river here. With the new bridge, how much more commercial traffic will we see?”

Harker added being able to access Windsor’s port is a huge advantage as the company has seen a significant increase in business outside North America in the past year.

That was particularly important given Canada’s edge over the U.S. in the number of free trade agreements it has in place, particularly with Europe.

“It was an important reason why we chose Windsor — the reduced cost to ship to western Europe by sea,” Harker said.

There are four pillars to Convoy Technologies’ customer base, he said. There are technology partners who use their systems in other products, such as advanced driver assistance systems, hydraulic control systems and telematic service providers.

The other pillars are distribution, use by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and large commercial fleets.

In locating in the Windsor region, Harker said Convoy Technologies sees opportunities in new sectors such as the battery supply chain and the greenhouse industry.

“No question, our products are suitable for those applications,” Harker said. “Windsor is going be one of the global hubs in the EV industry. Another sector we see for real growth is mining.”