The province’s manufacturers sector has been given a “game changing” economic boost, but even the man who announced it can’t say if it means more jobs for southwestern Ontario.
Gary Goodyear, Minister of State Science and Technology, was in London on Monday (Dec. 9) at Western University’s Fraunhofer Project Centre (2520 Advance Ave.) to announce the federal government’s $200 million investment in the manufacturing sector. The five-year Advanced Manufacturing Fund (AMF) will be delivered province-wide by FedDev Ontario.
The fund, Goodyear said, is aimed at the development of “transformative products and technologies” to help Ontario manufacturers create jobs and compete with the rest of the world.
“This fund is for those game-changing technologies that might impact an entire sector,” Goodyear said. “We can’t fund applications we don’t get. If we get quality applications we have trouble saying no to, and the those applications come from London, you can be assured of having even more than last year.”
The contributions provided will normally be between $10 million and $20 million per project for up to one-half (50 percent) of total eligible project costs. Projects seeking less than $10 million or more than $20 million may be considered. Applicants must provide evidence of industry support (non-government sources) for at least 50 percent of the remaining project costs and clearly demonstrate how their project responds to innovation, market relevance and spillover economic benefits.
During his comments, Goodyear said London businesses have already received close to $100 million in federal funds, which have supported more than five-dozen projects.
Goodyear said he is “looking forward to some really good applications from the area.” In addition, the minister said that despite southern Ontario’s fiscal hardships, those many investments have paid dividends, despite what the employment numbers might say.
“I think the input so far has had some advantages. I can’t imagine what it would be like without that $100 million,” Goodyear said. “It is always up to people to drive what they need. I encourage everybody in London, the economic development officers, the local government, the local associations, to look at where they want to go and what it will take them to get there.”
With experience of Caterpillar still on many people’s minds, Goodyear tried to alleviate some concerns that some businesses could seek out funding under AMF and then leave the country for cheaper pastures.
Saying the federal government “is not interested in creating jobs around the world,” Goodyear said the goal is to not to “sell our ideas,” but rather sell products globally while creating jobs and wealth locally.
“I believe we are in a technological revolution, not just the development of new technologies, but the adoption of that new technology into a process. Ontario cannot be left behind,” Goodyear said. “This is our opportunity to really take a step ahead, find the technologies out there, adopt them into your process, and if they aren’t out there, invent them here.”
The announcement included not only the minister, but Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston, Mayor Joe Fontana, and several representatives from not only the city, but Western University and Fanshawe College as well.
Another participant in the announcement was Kapil Lakhotia, London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) interim general manager.
While some question whether $200 million (and certainly not all of it will stay in the Forest City) will do much to create jobs, Lakhotia said it “absolutely makes a difference,” and throughout the year, LEDC has been working with manufacturers to assist them in applying for programs just like AMF.
Hopefully, Lakhotia said, local companies can use this new program to advance technologies, invest in infrastructure, and ultimately grow their businesses. But just like Goodyear, Lakhotia was cautious in predicting how much of an impact the AMF can have in the short-term given that there are a number of different economic factors that affect job creation and government funding and investment is only one of them.
Over the course of the year Lakhotia said LEDC has seen expansion, more manufacturing employment. In part, that growth is tied to the development of the automotive industry, “where production levels are significantly higher,” and the building construction sector, which “is doing much better.”
There are a number of different parameters affecting job creation in London.
“There are different criteria, different programming available. So when we meet with clients, we try to assess what their needs are and we try to match them to the best available programming,” Lakhotia said. “It certainly adds another tool to offer companies who are looking to expand.”
To learn more about the Advance Manufacturing Fund, visit www.FedDevOntario.gc.ca or call 1-866-593-5505.