$1.56-billion EV battery plant a ‘game-changer for Niagara’

$1.56-billion EV battery plant a ‘game-changer for Niagara’

Source: The Standard

Game-changer. Massive. Transformational.

To say the excitement was palpable at a gathering of municipal, regional, provincial and federal dignitaries for the announcement a $1.56-billion electric vehicle battery separator plant will be built in Port Colborne would be an understatement.

“This is a game-changer for Niagara,” said Mishka Balsom, chief executive officer of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce.

“We will look back on this particular day and remember the announcement that has been made here. What’s good for Port Colborne is good for all of Niagara.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford were joined Tuesday at Port Colborne’s engineering and operations centre by several key ministers, along with officials from across Niagara, to welcome Asahi Kasei Corporation’s massive investment that attendees said will lead to significant spinoff benefits for the entire peninsula.

With medium- to long-term growth forecasted in the North American electric vehicle market, the Japanese company expects to make additional multibillion-dollar investments through multiple phases, said the federal government, adding details about direct jobs are being finalized and will be announced at a later date.

Both Trudeau and Ford said Asahi’s decision to build its facility in Port Colborne is a testament to Canada and Ontario’s competitive business environment, highly skilled workforce and dependable supply chains.

The project will benefit from federal support through the Clean Technology Manufacturing Investment tax credit. Ontario will support the project with both direct and indirect incentives.

“This is probably the most important announcement made in the last 25 years in the Niagara region,” said Niagara Region Chair Jim Bradley.

“For Port Colborne, for the Niagara region, this really paints a good picture of the future. It puts us in the right place for the green economy. It means that we’re a key player here.”

He said Port Colborne is attractive, in part, due to its large and suitable available land.

“There’s going to be a lot of spinoffs because this company is going to have to be serviced by local people when it’s up and established, so this will produce a lot of good jobs, a lot of economic activity.”

Port Colborne Mayor Bill Steele said it was a “Team Niagara” approach that helped bring the investment to fruition.

“We’ve been meeting for nine months. Every week, we have a call that has approximately 45 people on it. We talk about the project, we talk about infrastructure, we talk about what we can do for this company to come to Niagara — the incentives that we have, both at the regional level and the city level. This is what’s made them come here.”

He said Niagara is on the “cusp” of bringing “lots of new businesses, lots of new people here.”

“You’re going to see the resurgence of all kinds of new industry that will tie in not just with the EV battery trade but, quite frankly, our marine trade.”

Welland Mayor Frank Campion said Niagara is “starting to turn into a bit of an EV centre,” pointing to the Linamar manufacturing facility expected to start producing parts for electric vehicles in his city next year.

“It’s massive for Niagara. We don’t really care where the jobs are in Niagara, as long as the jobs are being created and (there is) prosperity and economic spinoffs. It’s good for every municipality in Niagara.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati used the analogy of a “high tide is going to bring up all the boats of Niagara.”

“This is going to be as impactful as General Motors was when they came to Niagara a long time ago,” he said.

“Even though it was in St. Catharines, so many people in Niagara Falls and Welland and around the region worked at General Motors and this is going to have the same impact, except it’s forward-leaning into a new industry.”

Wainfleet Mayor Brian Grant said the new investment will benefit his township, which is next door to Port Colborne.

“I think this is an amazing opportunity for Port Colborne and Niagara, especially southern Niagara because generally we see a lot more development like this happening more in the north end — Niagara Falls, St. Catharines areas,” he said.

  • Previous Region Given Overall Economic Picture
  • Next Regional analyst says Niagara economy poised for growth