Jobs jack­pot

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - ME­GAN STACEY

Lon­don Mayor Matt Brown and On­tario Pre­mier Doug Ford were all smiles Tues­day at a news con­fer­ence to an­nounce Maple Leaf Foods is build­ing a $660-mil­lion poul­try pro­cess­ing plant in south Lon­don. The prov­ince is con­tribut­ing $34.5 mil­lion to the plant that will em­ploy nearly 1,500 work­ers.

Pre­mier Doug Ford was in Lon­don Tues­day to cel­e­brate the an­nounce­ment of a mas­sive new Maple Leaf Foods poul­try plant, ty­ing the in­vest­ment to his govern­ment’s moves to cut red tape and make On­tario “open for busi­ness.”

The $660-mil­lion in­vest­ment is “the largest in­vest­ment in food pro­cess­ing, ever, in Canada,” Ford told a crowd at the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Prod­uct Val­i­da­tion in Lon­don Tues­day morn­ing.

“We’re telling the world that On­tario is open for busi­ness.”

The 60,000-square-me­tre plant, to be built in Lon­don’s south­east near High­way 401, is ex­pected to bring 1,500 jobs to Lon­don.

Ford was joined by fed­eral and provin­cial politi­cians, in­clud­ing the fed­eral Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAu­lay, who high­lighted the fed­eral govern­ment’s in­vest­ment of $28 mil­lion in the plant, call­ing the plant “good news for On­tario work­ers.

“Maple Leaf will cre­ate over 300 jobs in con­struc­tion. It will also sup­port just un­der 1,500 mid­dle­class jobs . . . and an­other 48 co-op stu­dents ev­ery year.”

Three other Maple Leafs plants — in Bramp­ton, Perth South near St. Marys and Toronto — will close as the com­pany con­sol­i­dates pro­duc­tion in Lon­don at what the com­pany says will be one of the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced poul­try-pro­cess­ing plants in the world.

Ford shared tales from his time work­ing for Canada Pack­ers, now a part of Maple Leaf Foods, say­ing it was “the best job — un­til this job.”

He spoke about his govern­ment’s ef­forts to cut un­nec­es­sary reg­u­la­tions and stop labour re­form — Bill 148 — in its tracks, call­ing it a “jobkilling bill.”

Pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to be­gin at the Maple Leaf Foods plant in 2021.

Kapil Lakho­tia, head of the Lon­don Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp., said the in­vest­ment will build on Lon­don’s suc­cess in the agri-food in­dus­try. About 7,000 work­ers are em­ployed at more than 60 agri-food busi­nesses.

“The Lon­don re­gion is al­ready rec­og­nized as a ma­jor hub for food and bev­er­age sec­tor,” Lakho­tia said Tues­day.

DEREK RUTTAN/POST­MEDIA NEWS

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

Maple Leaf Food is build­ing a $660-mil­lion poul­try pro­cess­ing plant on Wil­ton Grove Road south of High­way 401. The plant, shown in an ar­chi­tect’s draw­ing, will em­ploy nearly 1,500 peo­ple.

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