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Welcome to the Invest in Middlesex Spring 2015 Newsletter. This quarterly e-newsletter has been designed for local businesses, prospective investors and our economic development partners.
Take a minute to get caught up on all the latest news and learn more about the opportunities available to you in Middlesex County.
Parmerit and Wolfe a Successful Combination
Five years ago, the management team at Parmerit Inc. had some big decisions to make. The Strathroy automation and machining firm had been hit hard by the recession. Its primary customer base -- the auto industry -- was in crisis, and the Parmerit workforce had dropped by two-thirds to roughly 17 people.
“We always knew it was a weakness being so dependent on the auto market,” says company president Ed Veeke. “So we put together a new strategic plan, acquired some new equipment to diversify our market and worked hard to begin growing again.”
The plan worked as well as Veeke could have hoped. Parmerit quickly regained its footing and now employs 55. As part of its expansion plans Parmerit began supplying Wolfe Heavy Equipment, then based in Melbourne.
In 2012, not long after moving to a larger facility in Strathroy, Parmerit purchased Wolfe and moved it under the same roof. Today, with 25 of its own employees, Wolfe has outgrown the shared space and is set to move across the street this summer.
“We now have a combined 80 employees or so, and between the two companies, only about 30% of our sales are to the auto industry,” Veeke says. “It’s amazing how closely everything followed our strategic plan. It seemed like a big challenge initially.”
Wolfe Heavy Equipment specializes in drainage plows and wheel trenchers, each targeting a specific market.
Contractors who install drainage tile on farms use the company’s line of drainage plows throughout North America. Water use is a critical issue in many jurisdictions, and farms of all sizes are taking action to control the water used on their crops.
“Drainage has evolved over the years,” Veeke says. “Where farmers once laid down drainage tile 60 feet apart, many are adding more tile so the distance is as little as 20 or 30 feet. Crops do better and the water is used more efficiently. Contractors installing drainage tiles are very busy all over the U.S. and Canada.”
Most Wolfe drainage plows are sold to the U.S. market. The plows come in a variety of configurations and offer such features as GPS auto steer to improve efficiency. They are licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, a requirement for sale in Ontario and an indication of quality in other areas where licensing is not yet mandatory.
The other half of the Wolfe business is wheel trenchers, menacing-looking machines that dig open trenches to a depth of seven or eight feet and a width of 46 inches. They are used in the oil and gas industry as well as anywhere else a pipeline is being built.
Weighing in at more than 60,000 lbs., the trenchers also feature state-of-the-art technology, including an air ride seat for comfort and heated and air-conditioned cabs.
Wolfe and Parmerit operate as separate companies, something that will be more obvious when Wolfe moves into its new home, across the street this summer. Meanwhile, Parmerit will continue to supply parts to Wolfe, as Veeke and his team keep diversifying and landing new contracts.
The County of Middlesex will now serve as the Destination Management Organization (DMO) for the County’s tourism development and promotion. The new face of tourism will be called Visit Middlesex.
The 2014 Middlesex County Economic Development Strategic Plan included a number of actions to support community based tourism and agri-tourism. Now through Visit Middlesex, we will take the lead in implementing those recommendations.
This initiative will build on the work of Tourism Middlesex and the Middlesex Business Help Centre. Visit Middlesex will incorporate the County’s Tourism Business Sign Program. You can also expect to see the Middlesex Grassroutes program feature prominently in our marketing efforts.
In the next few months Middlesex County will begin to integrate tourism development into our operations. The immediate focus will be on establishing the communications tools including a website and social media channels to reach visitors and tourism related businesses.
Visit Middlesex is co-hosting the upcoming SWOTC workshop: Social Media and Significant Events on April 23rd. We hope to see you there (there's still time to register).
We look forward to working with you and welcome your suggestions and feedback as we build the Visit Middlesex program.
Main Street Middlesex Revitalizing Downtowns
If the early response is any indication, the new Main Street Middlesex initiative to help fund downtown revitalization in four communities is a winner.
The program, which offers funding for a variety of initiatives in the historic downtown areas of Ailsa Craig, Dorchester, Parkhill and Lucan, has already approved 14 applications for various projects. It will continue to accept applications until March 31, 2016, giving businesses a chance to promote themselves, improve their façades or launch new events.
“The program offers matching funds of up to $2,500 for a number of initiatives in these four communities,” says Cara Finn, general manager of the Business Help Centre, which administers Main Street Middlesex. “We approved 14 projects in the first section of the project. And now we’re accepting more applications for the next year. It’s a great opportunity to use the funding we’ve received from FedDev Ontario.”
There are six categories of funding applications:
- Business Development: up to $2,500 to support such things as business attraction strategies and surveys, asset mapping, business education and participation in trade shows.
- Festivals and Events: up to $2,500 to create new, or enhance existing, festivals and events in the downtown area.
- Maps and Guides: up to $2,500 to develop maps or guides in the downtown, including directional signs and maps, either printed or electronic.
- Retail Promotion: up to $1,500 to promote downtown retail operations with advertisements in print, radio, TV, internet or direct mail.
- Storefront Signs: up to $1,500 for new or restored downtown storefront signs. Awnings may also be funded.
- Streetscape Beautification: up to $2,500 for items such as banners, benches, garbage cans, bike racks, flower containers and seasonal decorations in the downtown.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in the program, and several projects are well underway,” Finn says. “We think it’s a great way to enhance the hearts of these communities, and we’ve had local committees and organizers working with us. They are committed to improving their downtowns.”
Although the matching fund program is restricted to these four downtowns, Main Street Middlesex also offers loan programs to undertake similar projects in any of the county’s historic downtown areas.
Certified Investment Ready
Strathroy-Caradoc is now home to Ontario’s largest provincially certified investment ready site for economic development. The 100-acre site on Adair Blvd. is shovel-ready and is being marketed around the world by Ontario economic development officials.
“This will bring a lot of attention to the site,” says Andrew Meyer, Community Development Manager with Strathroy-Caradoc. “Manufacturers, investors and anyone else interested in the property can be assured the site has been inspected and approved by every relevant agency. It’s ready to go and fully serviced with utilities and with I.T. and telecommunications infrastructure.”
The certification program was established by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. The certification reduces uncertainty about availability, utilities servicing, access and environmental issues.
“Now that it’s certified, the province is out there advertising it for us all around the world,” Meyer says. “It draws a lot more attention than we could ever do ourselves.”
Among the studies conducted on the site were: a legal survey, title search, archaeological assessment, environmental site assessment, soil test, and species-at-risk assessment.
“The site has a clean bill of health from the province,” Meyer says.
In addition the area is serviced by water and sewer infrastructure that was upgraded and modernized only seven years ago, making it an ideal place to invest and build.
The Strathroy-Caradoc site is the first of several sites Middlesex County plans to submit for certification, says Aileen Murray, Manager of Economic Development for Middlesex County.
“This was our first experience participating in the program, and we learned a lot. Two other municipalities are in the preliminary stages of getting sites certified as well, one in Glencoe and one in Thorndale.”
The goal of the program is to eliminate any risk or doubt so investors can concentrate on expanding their businesses.
It truly is shovel-ready,” Meyer says. “It’s completely ready to go for a large investment or several smaller ones. We’re very flexible about how the 100 acres is used. We think there is lots of opportunity for a variety of interesting uses.”
Understanding the Manufacturing Workforce
Canadian manufacturers are facing unique Human Resources challenges that have tangible impacts on their competitiveness. A Management Issues survey conducted by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) found that 56% of CME members already face immediate labour and skills shortages. These shortages will only intensify as the workforce ages.
To better understand the nature and magnitude of these shortages, CME and the Canadian Skills Training & Employment Coalition (CSTEC) are undertaking a major, national Human Resources (HR) study that will provide better current and forward-looking information on the human resources trends and challenges confronting the Canadian manufacturing industry.
Manufacturers in the Middlesex London region are asked to participate in the survey.The survey should take approximately 10 minute to complete.
Forming an in-depth understanding of the specific challenges faced by manufactures in various regions across the country for particular skilled trades and technicians and technologists occupations will help industry and government develop effective responses and strategies. The results of the survey will be shared with the manufacturing sector once completed.
Aerial Video Series Wins Award
Middlesex County’s business park aerial videos continue to attract attention and praise. The video series was recognized at the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) Marketing Excellence Awards in February.
The EDCO award is further recognition of the innovative use of high-definition aerial videos to promote the 8 business parks in Middlesex County.
The videos provide detailed information about the business parks including the site features, infrastructure, transportation networks and surrounding businesses in a compelling and immersive fashion. The videos are featured on the Invest in Middlesex website, YouTube channel and the local municipal websites. Middlesex Economic Development continues to share the videos in presentations, email and social media.
643 Railway Street; Mt Brydges
- 100,700 sq ft on 6.72 acres
- Sale Price: $2,900,000
- Lease Rate: $3.90/ sq ft +
- Ceiling: 12 to 28 ft
- CN Rail Spur onsite