Provincewide Job Site Challenge to identify shovel-ready mega sites for manufacturing

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By Robin MacLennan

Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Ontario is launching a provincewide Job Site Challenge to identify shovel-ready mega sites where automakers or other advanced manufacturers could invest by building a large plant, creating thousands of good-paying direct and supply-chain jobs.

Officials made the announcement in December at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (West Plant) in Woodstock. The Toyota plant in Woodstock, which opened in 2008, is the newest auto plant in Ontario.

The Challenge, a Canadian first, invites municipalities, economic development agencies and industrial property owners to propose mega sites — large tracts of land between 500 to 1,500 acres that are already zoned, or could be, for heavy industrial use. These sites should be serviced or serviceable by utilities, transportation networks and other support infrastructure.

“With smarter regulations and reductions in the cost of doing business in the province, we’re restoring the competitive advantage that made Ontario the economic engine of Canada,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario’s associate minister of small business and red tape reduction.

“The Job Site Challenge will build on our investment strategy, help us compete with other North American jurisdictions for large-scale manufacturing investments and market Ontario as a competitive place to do business.”

The initiative is modelled on mega site programs that have helped several U.S. jurisdictions, including New York, Tennessee, Alabama and other states, to attract large-scale investments to build auto or other advanced-manufacturing plants.

Potential mega sites will be evaluated based on 13 criteria:

  • size and configuration
  • location and transportation
  • utilities and servicing
  • site condition and previous land uses
  • surrounding property uses
  • automotive and/or advanced manufacturing footprint
  • talent and training
  • ownership and title
  • policy and regulatory framework (for example, zoning)
  • government approvals
  • engaging with Indigenous communities
  • incentives
  • community benefits

However, sites that do not fully meet all criteria will still be considered.

An internationally recognized site selector will endorse and validate sites for inclusion in the inventory of certified mega sites. Ontario and the site selector will then lead a marketing campaign to showcase these selected sites to international and domestic investors.

The first shovel-ready sites are expected to be made available to investors in fall 2020.

“One of the biggest barriers that automakers face if they want to build or expand an auto assembly plant is availability of large-scale sites,” said Minister of Economic Development Vic Fedeli.

“Through the Job Site Challenge, we’ll identify the best sites in the province that can help bring good-paying jobs to the community. A new auto assembly plant — like the eight we already have in Ontario — would create thousands of jobs for hardworking Ontarians.”

The Job Site Challenge builds on the success of the province’s existing Investment Ready: Certified Site Program, which pre-qualifies smaller industrial properties across the province.

Proposals will be accepted until March 31. Here’s how to apply.

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