Former St. Thomas EDC manager has words for Daimler


Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum


Maurice Beaudry has a shoot-from-the-hip message for Daimler AG, the
parent company of the soon-to-close Sterling Truck Plant … you
screwed up and why should St. Thomas ratepayers suffer?
And Maurice knows of what he speaks, because in his former position
as manager of the Economic Development Corporation in the early
1990s, he played a leading role in convincing Freightliner to locate
in St. Thomas.

“They considered the city the best site,” he told this corner in a
conversation earlier this week. “It had to be located along the Hwy.
401 corridor between Cornwall and Windsor. There had to be complete
secrecy, I couldn’t talk to anybody. I worked a whole year to get it
in to town and there were no incentives. The last two or three months
were hectic.”
A scant 16 years later, Daimler AG is eliminating the Sterling brand
and will close the plant early next year, throwing approximately
1,400 people out of work. That includes 720 workers to be laid off
this month.
So, what went so drastically wrong is the obvious question City
Scope put to Maurice.
“They changed their brand,” he shoots back. “They went to Sterling.
Why didn’t they test it in the U.S. instead of here?”
The Freightliner name was a trusted brand for a convoy of truckers
in Canada, Maurice stresses.
“Freightliner had 25 per cent of the market and at the time,
truckers were asking for Canadian-made Freightliner trucks. They like
them better than the ones made in the U.S. When I used to drive to
Toronto I would have a notepad and I would check the trucks on the
highway and it was always right around 25 per cent. Freightliner was
the name.”
They can be built cheaper in Mexico, but what about the quality, he
questions. “Therm-O-Disc is an example. At one time they were
shipping some of their business to Mexico, but the reject rate when
the product got to the final destination was just awful. That’s one
reason they came back here to St. Thomas.”
Maurice says he has a couple of questions for management and labour
that are sure to have both sides looking in the rear view mirror.
“What will it take to re-open the plant as Freightliner, not as
Sterling? And what about de-certification? I’m sure there are
employees who would say, ‘to hell with the union.’ I think there are
employees who would go for that in a heartbeat.”
Maurice may be enjoying retirement, however he’s not one to retire
from standing up for what is due the residents of St. Thomas.
“They owe us. They made a mistake by going to a new product line
when you had 25 per cent of the market. Why would you go to a new
line? You made the mistake, why should we suffer. Why should the
people of St. Thomas suffer, the taxpayers as well as the employees?
And I’d like to get that message all the way to Germany.”
It’s on its way now, Maurice.

THE RE-BIRTH OF ALMA
Drawings were forwarded this week to City Scope shedding light on
the proposed Alma University that is the brainchild of Andrew
Gunn
, president of the Alma College Foundation, which has sought
for two years now to bring a 400-student private institution bearing
not only the name, but the likeness, of historic Alma College to this
area.
alma-university4
The proposed university would be located on a 20-acre site known as
the Kemsley Farm, northwest of the Thames Valley District School
Board Commmunity Education Centre off Sunset Drive.
An ambitious undertaking, granted, but it’s the type of visionary
thinking needed in light of the loss of some 4,000 manufacturing jobs
of late.
There’s a thorny catch, however.
“Obviously there are a number of challenges facing us in trying to
get a project like this off the ground,” Andrew relayed to us.
“Specifically, financing the project. At this time, however, there is
another difficulty that we have run in to.”
That involves the provincial government. In order to get consent to
operate a private college or university, the foundation has to make
an application to a review board set up by the province. And this is
all allowed for under what is called the Post-secondary Education
Choice and Excellence Act of 2000.
“We’ve met with policy advisors at the Ministry of Training,
Colleges and Universities and we’ve been told the policies that
applies to this sort of institution is under review. We’re not quite
sure what that means exactly.”
Andrew has fired off a letter to Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Steve
Peters
and also to John Malloy, Minister of Training,
Colleges and Universities, to try and get an indication of whether or
not this is the sort of thing the Liberal government is inclined to
approve.
“This school, with 400 students, would bring young people here,”
stresses Andrew.
“It would create quite a few jobs and there would be a lot of
visitors. For all the people who have lost jobs in the manufacturing
sector, obviously this isn’t exactly what they’re hoping to hear, but
it is however a piece of the puzzle for this community moving forward.”
It is exactly the economic diversification this area so desperately
needs. Let’s hope this doesn’t get bogged down in government red tape
at a time when jobs are on the fast-track elsewhere.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We need both our MP and our MPP to get behind this. Here’s our
opportunity to deal with the police service’s needs.”

Deputy Chief Darryl Pinnell says now is the time for the police
service to line up its political support in a move to get a new
headquarters off the ground.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions
and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.
Visit the City Scope blog site at: https://ianscityscope.wordpress.com/

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