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Medical Innovation Park gets Oro-Medonte council support for MZO

'It has become apparent that Ontario... must bolster its manufacturing capabilities within our borders to ensure ... support our health-care industry,' says proponent

Molded Precision Components is growing at a rapid rate, and took a step this week toward potentially bringing more than 1,400 new jobs to Oro-Medonte Township.

Geoff Campbell, managing partner of Oakleigh Developments (the developer of Matchedash Lofts in downtown Orillia), and David Yeaman, president of Molded Precision Components (MPC), made a presentation to township council earlier this week about their proposed Oro-Medonte Medical Industrial Innovation Park, to be located at 561 Line 7 North.

The duo were before council to request a letter of support in applying for a minister’s zoning order (MZO) to change the zoning of the property from rural/agricultural and environmentally protected to economic development with site-specific special provisions.

“My heart and soul is in Oro-Medonte,” said Yeaman. “The 'live, work and play' values I share, very closely, and I want more people to be able to share that.”

“In short, we’re very excited to be bringing this project to market and to Oro-Medonte,” said Campbell.

The proposed Oro-Medonte Medical Innovation park is an 82-acre advanced manufacturing park with a focus on medical manufacturing facilities.

The park would neighbour the Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park and is across Line 7 from the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport. Presently the property is an abandoned, unused farm.

The project will focus on industrial use with an emphasis on medical and personal protective equipment.

“As we currently navigate the COVID-19 crisis it has become apparent that Ontario and Canada must bolster its manufacturing capabilities within our borders to ensure sufficient capacity to support our health-care industry,” said Campbell.

Companies already onboard to locate their businesses to the proposed development as project partners are R&M Plastic Products (manufacturer of plastic components), ESC Environmental (manufacturer of custom HVAC systems for health-care applications), D2 MedTech Ventures (manufacturer of N95 masks) and Sterling Industries (manufacturer of medical devices and sub-components).

MPC is a full-service engineering provider, specializing in scientific injection moulding.

During COVID-19, MPC shifted their production to develop and manufacture a patented face shield design which was so successful, Yeaman said he has had to increase his staffing numbers from 55 to 160 since March.

Their current facility on Line 4 is being expanded to 45,000 square feet due to COVID needs, and currently produces 450,000 face shields per day. The company is now looking into entering the N95 mask and hand sanitizer markets to keep up with needs.

“We heard what the call was for Canada and what the needs were,” said Yeaman. “However, we’ve blown our doors off the 45,000-square-foot facility before we’ve even put the roof on.”

MPC is exploring temporary warehousing options as their rapid response medical equipment is currently being stored in a local hockey arena and fire hall, which Yeaman said is the reason the company is looking at getting the new Medical Innovation Park up and running in a timely manner.

“We need to consolidate all of this,” he said. “We already had plans 10 years from now to expand onto a 10-acre property and build a 150,000-square-foot facility, and now this has all happened in under six months.”

The property is currently designated agricultural in Simcoe County’s Official Plan and the township’s Official Plan. The property is also zoned agricultural/rural and environmental protection in the township’s zoning bylaw.

However, there are some other provincial rules and regulations in existence that contradict that use, which is why Campbell and Yeaman are seeking the minister’s zoning order.

In their letter to council, they point out that Line 7 North is an identified haul route, which provides designated heavy truck access to various aggregate operations north of the subject lands.

“The existence of this haul route and associated traffic is generally not conducive for agricultural operations,” they wrote.

Also, given the proximity to the airport, the lands are located within a primary hazard zone according to Transport Canada. Also according to Transport Canada, these zones identify agricultural uses as non-acceptable land uses.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Harry Hughes said he had no problem getting behind the request, as he saw it as an expansion to the request supported by the township for the adjacent Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park project.

“Very few residents would be impacted,” said Coun. Shawn Scott. “I fully support this.”

“Congratulations,” said Coun. Tammy DeSousa. “I am thrilled with your concept. I am fully in support.”

While Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough said there have been concerns around the number of MZOs coming through Oro-Medonte Township council, he said this project fills a clear need.

“Unfortunately, I don’t see COVID-19 going away anytime soon,” said Hough. “Time is of the essence to get this up and running so you can expand production, so I have no problem supporting it.”

Council voted to send a letter of support for the proponent’s request for an MZO to the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.