Filling voids — Cross Country comes to Blenheim

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Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls, centre, was among dozens of people on hand Feb. 7 for the announcement that Cross Country Manufacturing is setting up shop on Solvay Drive in Blenheim, and will hire 100 people to build heavy haulage trailers.

Why Blenheim? It was on everybody’s mind this morning when Cross Country Manufacturing announced it has set up shop in the South Kent community.

And the answer bodes well for Chatham-Kent’s future.

Jonathan Doerksen, president of Cross Country, said the makers of bulk haulage and aggregate trailers basically found the right environment, from the building to the community, geographical location and most of all, the people.

Cross Country purchased a massive vacant facility on Solvay Drive in Blenheim. The 120,000-square-foot building last housed Inergy Automotive about half a decade ago. For a building that’s sat vacant for years, it is in surprisingly good shape.

And it is perfect, in Doerksen’s terms, for his company’s expansion, which will see the creation of 100 new jobs inside of a year.

Cross Country, originally out of Manitoba, spent about eight months negotiating with the municipality to find a home. The company — which has customers from Fort McMurray, Alta., to Moncton, NB., and as far south as Texas — was looking to expand in the east. Possible locations included communities in Ontario and parts of the U.S. But a drive along Hwy. 401 led Doerksen to look to Chatham-Kent as a potential new home.

Once in touch with municipal economic development personnel Michael Burton and Stuart McFadden, guys Doerksen said “went above and beyond,” the quest for a home in our part of Ontario began in earnest.

Doerksen said the Solvay Drive facility is “ideal,” big enough for the company’s trailer construction process. A long, open shop floor, with high ceilings, works very well for Cross Country.

So too does the available workforce.

“There is an excellent labour force in southwestern Ontario,” he said.

Burton, the director of economic development for Chatham-Kent, said the municipality has the right ingredients for Cross Country, as it has a “loyal workforce” and is located in the logistical centre of the company’s target market.

Doerksen said the Blenheim arm of the business will be shipping trailers along Hwy. 401 in both directions.

Cross Country may have found the perfect building, but that’s not what sealed the deal for the company to come to Chatham-Kent. Our economic development team deserves a great deal of credit. The crew’s efforts really impressed Doerksen.

Mayor Randy Hope sees the addition of Cross Country to Chatham-Kent as part of a bigger picture.

“Chatham-Kent will be the fastest growing, sustainable community in southwestern Ontario,” he said.

Bold words.

Rumour has it the folks in economic development will have a string of additional announcements in the spring.

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