Canada’s most populous and industrially productive province, Ontario, has just 22 truly Certified Sites. Windsor-Essex has two sites that are part of an elite group of the Ontario Investment Ready: Certified Site Program. Two more have applications pending.
The province’s Investment Ready: Certified Site Program properties are fully-serviced, or readily serviceable as confirmed by a service provider (electricity, gas, waste, wastewater, telecommunications, for example) and are free of major development constraints.
Ontario — specifically, the Ontario Investment Office (OIO) — further certifies that the properties have completed a certain level of due diligence, including archaeological and environmental site assessments. The properties can furnish site information including ownership and title details; a property survey with the Plan of Subdivision if applicable; detailed zoning and permitted uses information; road and rail access; utilities and servicing letters and maps; maps including topography, developable area and surrounding uses; and a community profile. OIO is the province’s chief provider of resources to foreign and domestic capital investors. Among other functions, it administers the Investment Ready: Certified Sites Program.
In addition to the Certified Sites, Windsor-Essex is home to several industrial parks suitable for manufacturing, food processing and other industrial sectors. These include parks in Windsor (300 acres), Amherstburg (100 acres), Kingsville and Essex (25 acres each), Tecumseh (40 acres) and Leamington (35 acres).
The Windsor area’s first site to recieve OIO certification was the 66.9-acre Obolus Technology Park, in Lakeshore, Ontario, on the south shore of Lake St. Clair.
“The requirements to become certified are very involved,” says Ed A. O. Meyer, P. Eng., president of LP Meyer & Associates (Windsor) Ltd., a facility design firm marketing the property through its Obolus Ltd. project management division. “They want a lot of information from the landowner, from the municipality and others — it takes a lot of time. The file submittal can be two inches thick. It’s a very involved process but rewarding, because now all the businesses coming into Canada thinking of locating here automatically are given a snapshot of the Obolus Technology Park in Essex County.”
Obolus Technology Park is zoned for heavy industrial use — automotive manufacturers and suppliers, for example. CP Rail serves the south boundary of the property, and the Gordie Howe International Bridge — the second Detroit River span connecting Windsor-Essex and Detroit, Michigan, where it will connect with Interstate 75 — will be just 18 minutes away from Obolus when it’s complete. Windsor-Essex, located in the center of North America, was designated a Foreign Trade Zone in July 2017 — the eighth in Canada and second in Ontario. “It’s all coming together in such a way that bodes well for development for this area,” says Meyer. “We’re pleased to be a part of that.”
Certified and Runway-side
Meanwhile, the City of Windsor recently certified a 10-hectare (25-acre), municipally owned industrial site under the Ontario Investment Ready: Certified Sites Program. The Wheelton site is located on the Windsor International Airport property adjacent to an established industrial park. It offers convenient transportation connections to air cargo (onsite), rail (1.5 km or 1 mile), Provincial Highway 401 (5 km or 3 miles), a deep-water port (13 km or 8 miles), and three U.S. border crossings into Detroit — two vehicle and one rail crossing (within 12 km or 7.5 miles).
“The inherent benefit of locating in Windsor is strategic location — being within a day’s drive of half of North America’s population,” says Greg Atkinson, senior planner in the City of Windsor’s Planning and Building Services office. “Windsor-Essex is located at the western terminus of Highway 401, ‘Ontario’s Main Street’ which connects to the US Interstate system via the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Choosing a Certified Site means the uncertainty related to development of a new facility is nearly eliminated,” Atkinson notes. “The Investment Ready: Certified Site designation is issued to properties that have successfully completed program requirements to demonstrate that the property is ready for development.”
Atkinson says the Windsor airport Certified Site has been studied and cleared with respect to environmental, archeology and zoning concerns. Utility service providers have confirmed services can be provided within six months of a request. This upfront due diligence will allow investors to construct a building and be up and running quickly. “The site is certified and ready for investment now,” he adds. “All 10 hectares or a smaller portion of the site is available for long-term lease.”
Foreign investors looking for superior logistics and access to the Canadian and US markets won’t find a more convenient location or fewer barriers to development, Atkinson points out. “The Windsor-Essex Region has been designated a Foreign Trade Zone by the Government of Canada, which provides businesses with single-window service to government programs and services that can help boost exports. In addition,” he says, “to the upfront work completed through Ontario’s Certified Site Program, the City of Windsor offers attractive tax-increment based grants to businesses that retain or create jobs. The City also waives development charges for industrial uses. As part of a suite of services, the City’s Employment and Training Services Department can assist with training incentives and holding job fairs for your business once established.”
Windsor’s Community Improvement Plan might also come into play. It’s a set of incentives that’s customized for an investor and approved by the City Council — no two CIP programs are the same. A German automotive investor is coming to Windsor with 300 jobs, for example. It secured favorable land lease rates, a waiver of development charges for planning and new construction and no taxes on increased land value from vacant land to operational facility for 10 years, other than the education portion of taxes. Federal and provincial incentive programs, including job grants and R&D tax credits, are additional resources for area capital investors.
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of WindsorEssex Economic Development. For more information, call (519) 255-9200 or visit choosewindsoressex.com.