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$1.2M will help seat-belt maker buckle up for expansion (6 photos)

Ontario cabinet minister Vic Fedeli toured the plant before announcing grant for ZF Automotive Canada

A Midland manufacturer is getting a shot in the arm from the province.

During an afternoon tour of ZF Automotive Canada Thursday, Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Minister Vic Fedeli announced the Midland plant will receive $1.2 million through the province’s Southwestern Ontario Development Program.

The funding supports an investment of more than $7.8 million by ZF Automotive to help boost Ontario’s automotive and domestic manufacturing sectors, while attracting investment to the local economy. The move will help create 27 jobs and retain 136 jobs.

“We thank ZF Automotive for contributing to our province’s vibrant and growing automotive sector,” Fedeli said.

“This project is making a significant impact in the Midland and (the) greater Simcoe County regional economy by investing in Ontario’s talented workforce and creating the conditions for long-term economic growth.”

ZF Automotive Canada plans to expand and upgrade its manufacturing capabilities to remain competitive and fulfil future customer needs.

The company makes seat-belt components at its two facilities in Midland that plant manager Lee Whyman noted are shipped worldwide.

Whyman said ZF Automotive Canada is delighted to invest in a new trivalent chrome line for its Midland location.

He added: “This will make ZF Midland more competitive in the global supply chain, allowing us to diversify our product range, generate enhanced employment opportunities, and support our pursuit of carbon neutrality by 2040.”

The installation of a trivalent chromium plating line, which includes a proprietary innovative chemical process, will allow the Midland location to meet the European market’s increasingly strict environmental standards.

Whyman noted ZF's Bay Street plant has been operating in Midland since 1954 and now employs more than 300 area residents.

“We support 45 local businesses,” Whyman said, referring to spin-off revenues created by the manufacturer. “We produce 240 million seat-belt components annually.

“The new line will allow flexibility. We will be able to focus on new products and develop new operations. “We are very grateful for the assistance and partnership of the Ontario government for its ongoing support for auto manufacturers.”

Union head Larry Moreau, who serves as president of Unifor Local 1411, said the moves by both the company and province will help strengthen ZF’s local presence.

“I think it’s awesome, especially for our younger members,” said Moreau, who represents 275 workers at the two Midland plants.

“Hopefully, this means it (ZF) will stay here for a long time. It provides security and makes us more of a diversified shop and encourages more business to the area."

Following the tour, Fedeli said he was very impressed with the operation and noted that as someone who tours a lot of factories, it was one of the cleanest he’d ever seen.

“You could eat off the floor,” he told an assembly of workers gathered for the announcement.

Fedeli said he could understand why so many workers spend their entire careers at the Midland plant.

“You have so much to be proud of,” he said. “It was actually phenomenal to see. You really feel that it’s a great place to work.”

Added Simcoe County Warden George Cornell: “What strikes me is the passion you all have. It’s pretty exciting and speaks volumes to the success you have (here).”

Ontario is investing more than $100 million through the Regional Development Program (Eastern and Southwestern Ontario) from 2019 to 2023 to support distinct regional priorities and challenges.

The program provides cost-shared funding to businesses, municipalities and economic development organizations to help local communities attract investment, diversify their economies, and create jobs.

Fedeli said that through the development program, the government is making targeted investments in local manufacturers to help them create good, local jobs.

“Businesses of all types and sizes have really stepped up during COVID,” he said, noting his government has committed to saving businesses $7 billion annually through a range of means, including lowering WSIB premiums, to ensure they remain in the province.

“This, today, is an exact example of the power of strategic public-private partnerships," said Fedeli.

Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Community Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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