Chatham-Kent’s director of economic development is happy with the outcome of 2013 and optimistic with the outlook for 2014.
Michael Burton said some announcements can be expected early next year.
“I’m hoping to make an announcement in the first quarter,” he said. “Economic development along with Mayor (Randy) Hope have been working on a project that is kind of interesting. I can’t say much about it, but it would be an excellent plant to bring here.
“We’re expecting based on the work we’ve been doing, two or three announcements in the first quarter.”
Looking back on 2013, Burton said he’s happy with the outcome.
“Relative to a lot of jurisdictions, we had a very good year,” he said. “In terms of overall, we had 11 new companies establish in Chatham-Kent in the past 12 months and we had six companies that have expanded. These are companies we’ve been involved with.
“The expansion and new companies totalled 544 new jobs in the community, a nice split relative to Blenheim, Chatham and Wallaceburg. It has been quite simply, quite a spectacular year.”
Burton said C-K looks at Windsor-Essex, London and the Sarnia areas when comparing and analyzing “how they are doing.”
Burton said business planning is ongoing for next year.
“We’re going to focus on advanced manufacturing as we have in the past couple of years,” he said. “We’re also going to look at food processing. In spite of the dismal things happening from the American companies, we think there is a lot of room for growth in food processing, which would focus on global markets.
“We’re working on a couple of files specifically where we have interest in establishing some food processing and that would draw on some of the folks obviously that have those skills and will be leaving Heinz. We have a very active exercise on a couple of files that will not replace the employment level of Heinz, but it will provide some job creation in those areas.”
Burton said greenhouse development is another area they will focus on.
“We think there is a lot of room, particularly in the California market, to encourage greater greenhouse development here at home,” he said. “They have severe restrictions on availability of water out there. If those companies want to grow, they should consider growing here. We have a lot of water, we have a lot of land, and a lot of expertise.”
Burton said some follow-up trips overseas can be expected in 2014.
“We’ve contacted somewhere between 80 and 100 different companies over there face-to-face in India, China and Korea,” he said. “We’re currently looking at the short list of higher prospects in primarily China and India. If we want to get the investments here, we will have to carry on obviously selling the community in those locations.”