The sound of heavy equipment working on the former Navistar property is music to the ears of municipal officials.
Darrin Canniff, mayor of Chatham-Kent, is happy to see the property in the hands of local businessmen Don Tetrault, Rob Myers and Mike Vagi.
The same is true for Stuart McFadden, director of economic development for the municipality,
“I am sure glad that it was purchased by locals who have an interest in our community,” he said. “The track record these guys have gives me a good feeling the right things are going to be done over there.”
McFadden was impressed by how quickly work began on the property once the deal closed.
“As soon as the ink was dry, they got after it. That’s another reason I was glad they were the ones who got it,” he said of Myers, Tetrault and Vagi.
Crews have been on site breaking up concrete to expose the soil below and prepare the site for needed remediation and for future construction.
The next stage, Canniff said is to make the land build-ready, and that could happen fairly soon.
“By September, they hope to have land ready here to start erecting buildings,” he said. “They are moving full steam ahead. The day the deal closed is the day they had equipment here.”
The immediacy is also good news for the municipality, Canniff said.
“This is not a 10-year vision for them. The market is very hot so I fully expect over the next two or three years it will be pretty established,” he explained. “There will be buildings up and people will be working on this site.”
And that bodes well for the municipality and local residents, he said.
“We took an eyesore, one with zero productivity, and they are turning it into something where we can create hundreds and hundreds of jobs on this site,” he said. “Bring more industry to Chatham-Kent, that’s exciting.”
McFadden confirmed industries have already asked about the property.
“We have had business inquiries already. We responded to a couple of requests for information through the province and through some site selectors. We have also pitched this property to three different groups,” he said.
McFadden said the interest is simple: location, location, location.
“It’s about 83 acres, located within close proximity to Highway 401, and the services are there already,” he said. “Many different types of industry could be satisfied on that land.”
He just wishes the deal had been completed a couple of years ago.
“We have, within the last two years, turned away two very large investment opportunities in food processing. We did not have a parcel of property big enough or with adequate infrastructure to support these companies,” he said. “If I had this property two years ago, maybe we would not have lost these two opportunities.”
McFadden looks forward to seeing prosperity come from the Navistar property once again.
“That property created so much joy for many people for many years, and then so much pain. Now we’ll see rebirth and new life and new jobs,” he predicted. “Maybe those memories can finally be put aside and see something positive happening.”