Welland lands state-of-the-art electric vehicle parts facility; company locating on Canal Bank Street

Welland lands state-of-the-art electric vehicle parts facility; company locating on Canal Bank Street

This article was originally posted on Toronto Star on May 10, 2023 and can be viewed here.

A 27,870-square-metre facility in which structural parts for electric vehicles will be made will create 200 jobs in the Rose City, with production starting in 2025, say Linamar, the company behind the project, and the City of Welland.

It will call 59 Canal Bank St. — an industrial site comprising a portion of the former Union Carbide and Energex lands — home, the city said in a release Thursday.

“We are thrilled to have attracted this significant new investment to Welland,” said Mayor Frank Campion. “Linamar’s presence in our community signals the next wave of investment in the local economy and is a testament to the progressive steps Welland is taking.

“As a globally-recognized automotive supplier and proud Canadian employer, Linamar’s Welland-based employees will supply advanced components for the zero-emissions vehicles of the future from this new state-of-the-art facility,” he said.

Linamar, which first announced the move to Welland late Wednesday, said the facility will house “critical equipment for efficiently lightweighting and simplifying complex assemblies for electrified vehicles.”

“The facility is a highly-integrated casting, machining and coating operation with the first-of-its-kind Giga tonnage high-pressure-die-casting capabilities by an auto supplier in North America or Europe,” it said in the city release.

Linamar is an advanced manufacturing company for which “the intersection of leading-edge technology and deep manufacturing expertise is creating solutions that power vehicles, motion, work and lives for the future.”

It operates in 13 countries and works in power generation, propulsion systems, energy storage and structural and chassis production.

“We are excited about the investment in Welland for this state-of-the-art facility critical to the future of electrified vehicles,” said Linda Hasenfratz, Linamar chief executive officer.

“As the first supplier to invest in this equipment in North America, Linamar will naturally take a market leadership position in this technology.”

The company was started by Franz Hasenfratz, who immigrated to Canada from Hungary in 1957 and started a machine shop in his home basement.

In 1966, he founded Linamar and combined his daughters’ names — Linda and Margaret — to create the corporate identity.

Jim Jarrell, Linamar president and chief operating officer, said Giga castings are the next step in the evolution of the company’s high-pressure die-casting strategy. Giga casting involves massive machines, also known as Giga presses, to make large single pieces of vehicle underbodies.

“The Welland Giga casting facility will have capabilities few companies in the world possess. There is an increasing trend of cast aluminum used in vehicle architectures, particularly BEVs (battery electric vehicles). Structural aluminum castings offer an alternative to traditional steel stamping and weldments, creating a less complex and more lightweight solution for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).”

Linamar’s facility will be on lands owned by King and Benton, operating the combined Energex/Union Carbide site as ReGen Resource Recovery.

ReGen, a recycling and mining company, is working to extract 2,000 tonnes of high-end graphite per day on the former UCar lands.

On Tuesday, Fitz Matheson, a consultant with ReGen and King and Benton, told The Tribune the plan is to use the Energex site as an industrial park, and that work taking place is to get the property ready for its first client.

“The work that’s been going on has been to prepare an area of the site, not the entire site, for that client to their specifications,” said Matheson.

On Thursday, Matheson said more information will be available from ReGen next week and that she can’t speak on behalf of Linamar, nor can she “confirm or deny” they are the first company set to move in.

About a hundred buildings that previously sat on the site have been knocked down and their foundations removed.

A berm and a cluster of hills along Canal Bank Street have also been removed.

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