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Plant closure brings new worries about future of local manufacturing sector

In Bradford West Gwillimbury
Dec 5th, 2013

Heather Wright, CTV Barrie

With Faurecia in Bradford announcing it will close – leaving 550 people out of work – there are new worries about the manufacturing sector in our region.

Come February, those workers will be added to Ontario’s unemployment list. That’s when operations at Faurecia are expected to wind down, although the plant won’t close until 2015.

Its closing is just the latest in a long list of manufacturing operations to pull out of Ontario in the past few months.

“This is a difficult day for the town but we’re going to do anything in our power to find a new tenant for that site and keep jobs here,” says Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Doug White.

Last month, CCL in Penetanguishene announced it was closing, putting 170 people out of work. Yachiyo in Barrie will shed 35 jobs in mid-2015, and further south in Leamington the town’s biggest employer, Heinz, recently announced it will be closing its plant, putting 740 people out of work.

“Any time a business makes a decision they are based on revenue and cost,” says Georgian College business professor Norm Smith. He says those jobs are never coming back.

“These are classic business decisions that we see happening. The high dollar is hurting us, the fuel costs hurt us, and these are factors that are outside businesses control.”

But there is some good news: a growing demand for highly skilled workers to make high quality products. Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman says Ontario manufacturing is dying, and it’s changing.

“We’re finding companies that are producing products of higher quality than can be made in other parts of the world – Canada is known for its quality – or we have techniques that are more cost effective,” Lehman says.

One of those companies is Napoleon Home Comfort. Their business is growing; they’re finishing up a new distribution centre, expanding their product lines, and hiring more workers.

Vice president Stephen Schroeter says they’ve found a way to stay local and stay profitable.

“We adapt to manufacturing changes very quickly,” he says. “If we don’t keep up we fall behind and we notice it quickly. We’ve invested in technology and skilled workers.”

For any laid off worker looking to go back to school and improve their skillset the Ontario government offers a grant program of up to $28,000 – money to go toward things like tuition and books.

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