Windsor inching closer to landing another major foreign investment

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

Windsor is inching closer to landing the largest capital investment by a company in the electric vehicle supply chain since the announcement of the NextStar Energy battery plant in March 2022.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and Invest WindsorEssex vice-president of investment and attraction and strategic initiatives Joe Goncalves flew to Europe in late July to meet with company officials with hopes of pushing a deal closer to the finish line for a plant that would employ over 300 people and cost $600 million to $700 million to build.

The firm specializes in cutting-edge technology and production in the EV power train space.

“I think we’re in the 11th hour,” Goncalves told the Star. “They’re looking upon Windsor as extremely favourable.

“It was an excellent meeting. It was important the mayor of the city was there to show support for the project.

“They were interviewing us too to make sure we can follow up on our commitments.”

Goncalves said the discussions centred more on details and gave Dilkens an opportunity to talk about city council’s updated incentives package that was approved shortly before the trip.

He added the federal and provincial governments have also already provided their incentive packages.

“The (city’s) package addressed what they wanted,” Goncalves said.

“We’re well past addressing any concerns they have. We were working with the company on details around natural gas and electricity, land permitting and labour.

“We’re far enough along to re-emphasize our commitment to supporting what they need done to make sure they can meet the tight timelines they have.”

The incentive packages won’t be the multibillion-dollar offers needed to play in the battery plant space. The American Inflation Reduction Act doesn’t impact the supply chain in the same way.

“The tax credits and incentives offered by the federal and provincial governments, along with things like CIPs (community improvement programs) offered by municipalities, make us quite competitive with the U.S.,” Goncalves said.

Goncalves said the firm is now doing its final due diligence in its site selection process. The company has studied 200 sites as potential locations for its first plant in North America.

“It’s down to us and one site in the U.S.,” Goncalves said.

However, Goncalves points out Windsor offers a better value proposition than its American competitor due its location in the centre of the North American auto industry, ability to move people across the border, more open immigration system to recruit talent and a free-trade agreement with the European Union that allows for the free flow of goods and skilled talent.

The U.S. has no free trade agreement with the European Union.

“It would be a real feather in our cap to land this,” Goncalves said. “The components they supply are a critical part of EV automobiles. There are huge expansion possibilities.

“This is why the next step for us is pushing to create more serviced industrial land in Sandwich South and in the county. We must be ready for these opportunities by making investments now.”

Goncalves said there are several more companies in serious discussions about locating in the city or Essex County.

The most serious of those would be a $400 million investment related to cell manufacturing. The company is in talks with a municipality for permits for land and with the federal and provincial government on incentive packages.

Goncalves points out it isn’t just the automotive sector that is benefiting from this wave of investment.
“It’s important to take advantage of the EV opportunities, but it’s also important we keep trying to diversify,” Goncalves said.

“Companies like SofTab Technologies, Amazon starting construction on their warehouse site, NEXE and Convoy Technologies — those four represent over 500 new jobs and well over $100 million in new investment.

“Then there’s the opportunities in the agricultural, logistics and warehousing sectors. It’s all part of the strategy of the diversification of the region.

“Wherever these jobs go, it benefits both the city and the county.”