Standing in front of the old Canadian Ohio Brass Company location on Thorold Stone Rd., Mayor of Niagara Falls Jim Diodati (third from right) cuts a ceremonial ribbon alongside personnel from HOPA Ports and the BMI Group. Photo credit: City of Niagara Falls
As the largest re-industrialization in North American history takes shape, small-medium sized cities and towns, particularly those with a close proximity to the Canada-US border, are preparing to become the backbone of continental supply chains. With this end in mind, local manufacturing facilities of the past are being revamped to meet the needs of the future. Niagara is no exception.
Last week, the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA), and its partner, the BMI Group, announced a partnership to resurrect the old Canadian Ohio Brass Company location in Niagara Falls, a 350,000-square-foot industrial manufacturing center on Thorold Stone Rd. The facility will be located less than ten minutes by car from the Thorold Multimodal Hub.
Jeremy Dunn currently serves as the Commercial Vice President of HOPA Ports. “At HOPA, we’ve been really focused this year on making investments in transportation infrastructure,” Dunn shared in a recent sit-down with The Niagara Independent. “As our existing operations (in southern Ontario) become full, we are seeing a continued, growing demand to bring more industrial operations to Niagara.”
HOPA, which operates marine/port assets in Hamilton, Oshawa, and Niagara, has a stated vision to “create and lead an integrated port network on the Great Lakes to boost supply chain resilience.”
“If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that supply chain resiliency is absolutely critical to Canadian industry,” said Dunn. “And when you look at all of the disruption/unrest around the world today, it isn’t surprising that so many firms are reshoring/relocating their operations,” he added. “Canada continues to be viewed as a stable country, with immense economic potential… a good place to do business.”
Dunn believes that Niagara is uniquely positioned, demographically, financially and geographically, to seize the moment. “(Located only a few miles from the US border) Niagara can effectively market its products to consumers across both the Northeast and the Midwest,” he explained. “And through the St. Lawrence Seaway, which begins with the Welland Canal, ships have direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, facilitating global trade.”
While these strategic advantages have always attracted investment to the region, the economic developments of most recent years have sealed the deal. “If you were to look back five years, or so, much of the conversation with companies about relocating to Niagara would be where are we going to find workers?”, Dunn explained. “Some firms were hesitant to move out of the GTA,” he added. “With more options for affordable housing, and an enhanced labour demographic, however, this is not the case anymore.”
“Businesses operating in Europe, in other places around the world, are looking to come to Canada, and communities like Niagara have a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the opportunity.”
In addition to partnering with each other, HOPA Ports and the BMI Group are working closely with both local and federal counterparts. “We are working with both the municipal and regional economic development teams in Niagara,” Dunn shared. “Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati has been a strong advocate and supporter of the initiative… We also have federal partners who are very generous with their time and interests.”
Looking forward, Dunn believes that a decade of enormous local economic growth lies ahead. “(Over the next five to ten years) you’ll see clusters of industries locating themselves in Niagara,” he predicted. “Some will be based around clean-tech, others will be general manufacturing… it will be very measurable.”
“It is going to be an exciting time.”
Those interested in learning more about HOPA Ports, its mission, and operations are invited to visit their website.
Nick Redekop completed his Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labour Studies at Brock University. He has previously served in municipal and federal politics. In his free time, Nick enjoys following sports, taking part in outdoor activities, and reading biographies. Nick resides in Niagara Falls