Looking for a place to park a share of $200 million


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Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario, came to town Thursday dangling a $200 million carrot while serving up a bitter dose of reality.
“The industrial revolution’s over,” warned Goodyear. “This is the technology revolution. Manufacturing has to accept the fact that for them to remain competitive they have to use the lightest product.
“They have to use the fastest assembly line, they have to use the latest inventory software and all of these new technologies – many of which are developed here in Ontario – have to be purchased.”
Not only do businesses have to recalibrate, municipalities and their economic development corporations need to focus on the new reality.
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‘Mayor’s negativity . . . unwarranted,’ says TV show’s fan


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    As we wrote in this corner last week, City Scope applauds the decision made to take a flyer on providing the backdrop for the popular reality series, Million Dollar Neighbourhood, because of the negative light in which it might cast St. Thomas.

     Reader Bill Sandison takes exception and passed along the following argument.

     ” So much for this mayor and meaningful community engagement; a missed opportunity to build community spirit over a 10-week stretch as 100 families would help each other try to achieve a community savings of $1,000,000; equating to $1,000 a week for each family,” Sandison writes.

     “Mayor Heather Jackson reportedly reached consensus with the Economic Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce to say no.”

     He continues, they “should replay the video “St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada – Faster. Stronger. Better.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qQl4Nvrmmc) It portrays St. Thomas in a far more progressive light, one that appears to have been forgotten.  While the video is industrial focused, it is about a community working together, which is exactly the premise behind Million Dollar Neighbourhood, except it involves ordinary families working together to improve their individual circumstances and the community as a whole.

     “Each week the families select one household to receive $10,000 for leadership towards achieving their goal. Has Mayor Heather Jackson watched any of the 10 episodes; talked to any of the 100 families participating in saving Aldergrove $1,000,000; talked to Aldergrove resident Irene Setka who won the $100,000; talked to Mayor Jack Froese or any of the township councillors before trashing the opportunity as simply “more negativity about the city?”              

       Sandison points out, “Joanne Nicolato, a participant, said in her address to council, ‘I found myself bursting with community pride.’ Not quite the image being portrayed by our mayor.

     “While other Ontario communities are actively soliciting the Million Dollar Neighbourhood show, our mayor turns her nose up at the offer.  Perhaps it is just indifference towards the residents of St. Thomas?

     “After all, what 10 families here could possibly use $10,000 and potentially $100,000?  While I can appreciate Jackson’s fear of criticism, it has nothing to do with the families living in St. Thomas.”

     Sandison concludes, “The mayor’s negativity is defensive and unwarranted, and has deprived local families of hard cash and an opportunity to showcase community pride.”

     As always, this corner encourages input from readers.

LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT . . .

     Ascent, formerly St. Thomas Holdings Inc., has an off year and yet board chairman, Ald. Tom Johnston, feels the directors should receive a hike in compensation.

     Johnston would not reveal specifics of the increase, but board members currently receive about $8,500 for attending 10 or so meetings a year.

     Handsome remuneration for the work involved.

     Thankfully, city council was united in nixing this proposal to further stock the trough.

     So, who sits on the Ascent board of directors?

     In addition to Johnston and Mayor Heather Jackson, neither of who are compensated, the members include former St. Thomas mayor Peter Ostojic, vice-chairman Jim Herbert, Brian Dempsey and local businessman Joseph Starcevic.

     “I can’t support this recommendation,” asserted Ald. Gord Campbell. “St. Thomas Holdings had a difficult year, lost some money.

     It was Campbell who called for the recorded vote,

     Is that why council was unanimous in opposition? Shame by association?

GUESS NO LONGER

     After months of speculation, the where-will-Steve-Peters-surface-again question was answered this week with an announcement from the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors (AOFP) that their new executive director is none other than the former mayor of St. Thomas.

     AOFP is a member-driven organization representing over 650 food and beverage processing companies in Ontario and employing more than 110,000 people.

     Can’t think of a more qualified and enthusiastic ag business promoter than Steve. He served as this province’s minister of agriculture from 2003-2005, then moved on to minister of labour from 2005-2007.

     Of course, long-time residents of St. Thomas will remember Steve really got a hands-on education in the food business stocking grocery store shelves in the previous century.

     Reader David Delgado gives two thumbs up to the announcement.    

     “Good for Stevie boy,” he notes on the T-J website. The AOFP got a good man to work with them. Too bad we can’t convince him to come back as mayor!”

     It’s a safe bet the AOFP is not familiar to many in the province. It will be interesting, therefore, to follow Steve’s impact on the alliance, both in profile and increased political clout.

THIS WILL BE A PARTY

     After a two-year hiatus, Canada Day celebrations will return to Pinafore Park, a venue that was vacated due to risks associated with the grand finale fireworks display and the proximity to the Lake Margaret development.

     It’s a wise decision by the city, albeit unfortunate the compromise solution could not have been reached much sooner so as not to break the long tradition of celebrating Canada’s birthday in the family-friendly confines of Pinafore Park.

     The Douglas J. Tarry Sports Complex is a wonderful site for ball tournaments and the like, but as a gathering spot for the community to come together for a day-long party, it just doesn’t cut it.

     Based on early comments on the T-J website, the prospect of renewing the association with Pinafore Park on July 1 is embraced by readers.

     “One of the best decisions made so far this year,” writes ‘dewing.’ “Back to the Park! That should be the most repeated saying of the city. Congratulations on bringing ‘family’ back to July 1.”  

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

     “I am looking forward to the opportunity to be a champion for a manufacturing sector that is so vital to Ontario’s economy.”

     Former Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Steve Peters on his appointment this week as executive director of the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors.

     City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions or comments can be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

 

Alliance of Ontario Food Processors appoint Steve Peters as Executive Director


Cambridge, ON — The board of directors of the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors (AOFP) has appointed Steve Peters as Executive Director, effective May 2, 2012

Peters is a former MPP for the riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London from 1999-2011. He was Minister of Agriculture from 2003-2005, and Minister of Labour from 2005-2007. Most recently, Peters served as Speaker of the House until his retirement from politics in 2011. Prior to his election to provincial government, Peters served as mayor of St. Thomas.

“We are delighted that Steve has joined our team,” says Craig Richardson, chair of the AOFP board of directors. “We believe that his experience in and long-standing commitment to the agri-food industry in Ontario will help us to achieve our goal of raising the profile and strengthening the Ontario food and beverage processing industry.”

“I am passionate about this industry,” says Peters. “I have long recognized its importance as an economic driver in Ontario, and see great potential for growth and job creation. I am looking forward to the opportunity to be a champion for a manufacturing sector that is so vital to Ontario’s economy.”

AOFP is a member-driven organization representing over 650 food and beverage processing companies in Ontario, including the members of the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors, the Baking Association of Canada, the Dairy Council of Ontario, the Ontario Independent Meat Processors, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association, and the Wine Council of Ontario. It employs more than 110 000 Ontarians, making it the largest employment sector in the province. In addition, the industry purchases over 70 percent of Ontario’s agricultural production making it the farm community’s most strategic partner.

Among AOFP’s priorities for strengthening the industry is a partnership with Conestoga College in Cambridge, Ontario to develop the Institute of Food Processing Technology, a training facility to address the significant shortage of skilled labour in the industry.

National food strategy rooted in Elgin


Posted by Ian:

With no clearly defined picture as to what Canada’s agri-industry should look like in the coming decades, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is taking a lead role in devising a national food strategy. OFA vice-president Mark Wales, who farms near Copenhagen in east Elgin, is a vocal advocate for a clear, defining agricultural template that can be adopted on a national scale.

City Scope conducted a lengthy interview with Mark on March 9 of this year. What follows is the entire unedited version of the phone interview with Mark in Toronto that delved into a national food strategy, a similar undertaking in the U.K., GM foods and other agri-industry topics on the radar.

City Scope: Mark, define for us what has led up to the push for a national food policy.

Mark Wales: There never has been any clear defining, overarching national or even provincial food strategy in this country. Some municipalities, like Vancouver, have a food strategy and I think Manitoba has a bit of one, but those are mainly focused around very local food. But there is nothing overall to say what should Canadian agriculture look like, whom should we be trying to feed, what should we be trying to produce and who should be doing it and under what standards and so on.

There is a myriad of policies but none of them with any overarching vision or strategy. So, that’s what we’re working on here, both in Ontario at the OFA level, and at the national level through the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
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Aylmer IGPC ethanol plant provides economic benefits


Official IGPC plant opening in Aylmer, December, 2008

Construction of the Alymer-based Integrated Grain Processors Co-op Inc. ethanol plant began in mid-2007. The facility has been operational since Oct. 1, 2008. In addition to producing 162 million liters (43 million gallons) of corn-based ethanol annually, the plant also produces approximately 129,600 tons of distillers grains each year.

The plant is owned by a cooperative made up of approximately 900 members. Ownership is nearly evenly split between regional farmers and other representatives of agriculture-related businesses. The facility was capitalized in part by equity investment by the facilities ownership. Additional capitalization was sourced from a consortium of banks and federal and provincial government incentive programs.

In its study, Doyletech found that construction of the plant contributed to a net spending increase within the region of approximately $275 million, was well as an annual increase of at least $50 million in new economic spending in the region as a direct consequence of the plant’s operations.
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S. Ontario straw becomes Ford Flex storage bins


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Research at the University of Waterloo has led four southern Ontario farmers to send straw from soft, white winter wheat to an auto parts plant in Ohio for plastic production that is ending up as third-row storage bins in the Flex crossover vehicle in Oakville.

In an industry that is quickly developing and manufacturing so-called green interiors, Ford says it is the world’s first automaker to develop and use straw for plastic in a vehicle.

London seeking $150 million offered Ford Canada’s St. Thomas Assembly Plant


Posted by Ian: St. Thomas and Elgin county lose the Ford plant and as a result the economic impact will be compounded via support operations like Lear Seating, trucking companies and CN who relied heavily on the St. Thomas Assembly Plant and yet London wants the entire $150 million offered by the province for its own benefit. It’s bad enough we have to deal with the London-centered school board and St. Joseph’s Health Centre for psychiatric services. However, you can ask the question, why didn’t St. Thomas staff and administration beat London to the punch? Or is that because they have no long-term economic plan in place. Where is the Economic Development Corp. and the Chamber of Commerce in this dark chapter? London is taking concrete steps to diversify its economy (read agri-business and digital media), while in St. Thomas we’re still trying to entice an automaker to locate here. Following is the full story from the London Free Press …

The City of London is going after $150 million the Ontario government is believed to have offered to save Ford of Canada’s St. Thomas assembly plant, Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best said.

The city and region could use the cash to fund a host of ambitious economic development schemes, she said.

“We continue to be impacted in a severe way. If there is money for the plant, then surely there must be money to invest in initiatives we are looking at.”

Ford Motor Co. will close the St. Thomas plant in September 2011, cutting 1,600 jobs when it ends production of the Lincoln Town Car, Mercury Grand Marquis and Crown Victoria.
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