Realizing a Vision for the Rose City

City of Welland

Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist and inventor of the World Wide Web, is noted as saying that new challenges must be met with a diversity of thought.

Although he may have been referring to the technological challenges of the current day, his insight can be equally applied to any challenge – globally, within countries or within cities.

A firm commitment to move forward, rather than being paralyzed by challenges, enables a vision for exploration and growth. A peek into what can be, rather than reflecting upon what was. It is the adoption of this diversity of thought and the resolution to secure a future that propels the city of Welland, Ontario forward.

Situated on the St. Lawrence Seaway in the “Golden Horseshoe”, the heart of Southern Ontario, Welland, known as the “Rose City”, has a population of over 50,000. The city has traditionally gained renown for having a strong manufacturing base, complemented by excellent infrastructure that includes rail, air and highways with connections to major Canadian and U.S. industrial centres. The city’s Welland Canal, which was instrumental in the city’s development, acts as a key shipping portal to the St. Lawrence, connecting Lakes Erie and Ontario.

Being in the Niagara Peninsula, Welland is a thirty minute drive to the U.S. border and within a day’s drive to seven of the nation’s top ten industrial states. The city is also in close proximity to over 200 automotive related and advanced manufacturers.

Of the city’s expansion of its 406 highway, part of Southern Ontario’s 400 series of highways leading into the city, Dan Degazio, Welland’s Economic Development Manager, explains that, “The four lane expansion will be completed by this year. That’s a major attraction… with a 20 minute drive in each direction, you’re touching a population of almost 435,000 people.”

Initiating incentives

The Niagara Gateway Economic Zone and Centre is a business incentives project developed to attract investment in the Niagara region. The Gateway Centre includes five municipalities selected on the basis of their multimodal network – Welland, Port Colborne, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Thorold. The magnitude of the incentives for each project will be dependent on investment levels and job creation.

Approximately one-third of the available 2,000 hectares of vacant employment lands within the Gateway are currently fully serviced. For those businesses interested in relocating to the Niagara region, support programs are offered as additional incentives. “The Gateway Centre is an incentive program to help enlighten people and companies about our area,” says Dan. “There are some tax incentives, development charge incentives as well as land incentives in this project.”

Welland’s Health and Wellness Services Growth Plan, one of the objectives of the city’s Community Improvement Plans, was developed to take advantage of Welland’s rapidly changing demographics and to address the identified need to diversify the economy. The goal of the Plan is to recognize new opportunities for growth in the Healthcare and Technology sectors and to gain recognition as a Health and Wellness Services leader in the Niagara region.

“We’re looking to have Welland be one of the hubs of health and wellness in the region,” states Dan. “We’re working very closely with some of our manufacturing companies [which] are dealing with medical devices right now.”

Additionally, Dan relates that sports tourism is a major economic driver for the city. “We’re a very sports oriented community,” he says. Almost $16 million has been spent on their indoor Youngs Sportsplex opened in 2013. “It’s the only indoor FIFA sized soccer facility in Ontario right now,” he adds. “There are no indoor facilities that can actually host an indoor international game… Sports have always been a big thing in Welland, but now we’re trying to make more of it.”

Lighting the way

Welland believes that conscientious cities which conserve energy can help set the precedent for other Canadian municipalities. Since 2003, Welland has been actively involved with LED projects, so much so that the city now boasts the first completely LED city in North America. Aside from setting a precedent, Welland’s vision is to attract LED businesses to this rapidly growing, energy saving market.

Welland’s LED project was a $4 million investment and it is estimated that in the next decade alone the city will directly save over $2 million. “We’re looking at being a green city,” relates Dan.

Attracting major industrial players

The largest biodiesel refinery plant in Canada, Great Lakes Biodiesel, started production in Welland in 2012. Together with Methes Energies Canada Inc. based in Mississauga, Ontario and Noroxel Energy Ltd. in Springfield, Ontario, the three partners have established the Ontario Biodiesel Association (OBA). The aim of the OBA is to promote the production and utilization of this renewable fuel. This emerging sector in the Niagara region has Welland well positioned for growth and investment. Great Lakes Biodiesel produces 170 million litres of biodiesel annually.

Senvion, called Power Blades Inc., opened its wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in the city in 2013 with 120 employees to date. This German-based company is the company’s first and only manufacturing facility in North America. A relatively young industry in Canada, Power Blades Inc. produces approximately 125 wind turbines annually. Welland was the location of choice because of its excellent transportation modes, a suitable vacant facility, and a skilled workforce. Dan notes that, in Welland, the company found the high quality of labour it was looking for. “That was one of the final things that drew them to the facility… we’re expecting another line in 2014, which will add another 100 jobs.”

Dan shares his enthusiasm for Welland’s ASW that began production in 2011 after the former owner, MMFX Steel of Canada, ceased operations in 2009 shortly after acquiring the Welland facility in 2006. By 2010, ASW acquired all assets held by MMFX. Once closed down, the melt shop still remained and the property was separated into nine parcels, seven of which are now active and employ 600 people. The ASW facility produces approximately 400,000 tons of alloy, carbon and stainless steels annually.

“ASW is now back on the market as one of the best, if not the only stainless steel company in Canada,” shares Dan. “They’re growing very cautiously, optimistically by a few employees every week… this is going to be a major story in the next two to three years.”

Opened in Welland in 2011, Welded Tube of Canada has invested $50 million into the retrofitting and the addition of 40,000 square feet to an existing facility. Headquartered out of Concord, Ontario with facilities in South Carolina and Ohio, Welded Tube is a Canadian company established in 1970 manufacturing pipe and tube production for the oil and gas sector. Welland was chosen as the company’s newest facility because of its close proximity to the U.S. and the city’s active promotion of redevelopment of former industrial and manufacturing sites. The plant currently employs 140 people.

To be sure, Welland is reinventing itself through its own diversity of thought, innovation, and the seizing of opportunities. Concludes Dan, “I’m very optimistic of the future. The future is going to be good for the city.”

For more information about the City of Welland, please visit http://www.welland.ca/

August 19, 2017, 2:37 PM EDT

A Model that Addresses Infrastructure Demand

The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) is a National Union representing over 500 000 members – over 110 000 in Canada with an International Office in Hamilton, Ontario. It has Local Unions across the country and is the most common union of construction, healthcare, waste management, and show service workers in this country. In fact, LiUNA, established in 1903, is Canada’s largest Building Trades Union.