Last week MPPs Rick Nicholls and Monte McNaughton held a media event outside a partially vacant industrial building on Richmond Street to hammer the government on the loss of manufacturing jobs.
That’s what opposition parties do. Part of their job is to make the government look bad, so they, the opposition, get elected. In this case, they’re getting a lot of help since the provincial Liberals’ have lurched from crisis to crisis, punctuated only by periods of quiet ineptitude.
This election is theirs to win (although the same could have been said last time around and that didn’t work out so well).
The MPPs trotted out figures showing Chatham-Kent has more than a million square feet of vacant manufacturing space (the former Navistar building alone accounts for almost that much).
There’s no doubt that Chatham (like much of Ontario) has taken a huge hit in this regard.
Massive manufacturing facilities have been replaced by smaller “boutique” operations as the sector finds ways to best employ the skill set that once made us among the finest in the world at what we do.
Where I have a problem with the Nicholls and McNaughton roadshow is that it tells only that part of the story which they want to use to their advantage.
Yes, our community had 18 vacant industrial buildings.
Three years ago, we had 28.
Council and CK Economic Development officials have found creative ways to handle issues ranging from back taxes to workforce skills to breathe life into the former facilities in Wallaceburg, Chatham and Blenheim. Firms such as Cross Country Manufacturing, Lambton Conveyor and Krinner have moved here.
Of the 18 remaining, about a half-dozen have some environmental contamination that a prospective buyer would have to address before the properties can be re-used.
There is plenty more to do, but if you take those properties out of the equation, we’ve filled almost half of the vacancies.
That may not make for good news on the pre-election trail but we find it worth a proverbial pat on the back.