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Each level of government has pledged $41.8 million investment in Honda of Canada

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

From left to right, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Growth Brad Duguid, Honda of Canada Manufacturing president and CEO Jerry Chenkin and Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains visiting the Alliston Honda plant on Monday to announce new grant funding of up to $41.8 million from each level of government for Honda of Canada Mfg. MIRIAM KING/BRADFORD TIMES

From left to right, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Growth Brad Duguid, Honda of Canada Manufacturing president and CEO Jerry Chenkin and Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains visiting the Alliston Honda plant on Monday to announce new grant funding of up to $41.8 million from each level of government for Honda of Canada Mfg. MIRIAM KING/BRADFORD TIMES

“It's a huge day for Honda.”

That was the assessment of Honda of Canada Mfg. president and CEO Jerry Chenkin, who shared the podium with Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, and Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Growth Brad Duguid, for a multi-million dollar announcement at the Alliston plant on Monday.

The Ministers announced new grant funding of up to $41.8 million from each level of government for Honda of Canada. Minister Bains described the grants as an “investment in well-paying middle class jobs”, that will ensure that Honda remains on the leading edge of technology and innovation, and maintain the existing 4,000 associate positions in Alliston.

The federal funding is part of the Automotive Innovation Fund, designed to promote the development of “greener, more fuel efficient” vehicles, Bains said. At the same time he announced a significant change to the fund: a shift from loans, to grants. Money will be granted to “select program funding recipients without the expectation of repayment,” the minister said, a step that is designed to attract investment, support research and development, and “drive economic growth through innovation.”

From the use of lighter materials in manufacturing, to the production of self-driving cars, Ontario leads the way, Bains said – in part because it represents the largest technology hub “outside the Silicon Valley.” The investment reflects confidence both in the auto sector and Ontario's economy.

Minister Duguid announced matching provincial funding, noting that Honda of Canada Mfg is the first plant outside of Japan to receive Lead Plant Designation, and currently produces 20% of the vehicles in Ontario.

“This is an incredibly exciting time to be in the auto sector,” said Minister Duguid. “Honda really is leading the way, and we're so proud to have Honda in Ontario.” He also praised the new co-operation between the provincial and federal governments, in supporting Ontario industry.

“It's good to be up here, not alone but in a very strong partnership,” Duguid said.

The announced grants represent 17% of Honda's planned $492 million investment in the Alliston plant, over the next three years – to continue the modernization of its operation, and reduce its carbon footprint.

Honda of Canada Mfg. celebrated its 30th anniversary in November, noted CEO Jerry Chenkin, explaining that the new investment is in addition to the $857 million already spent on updating the manufacturing plant, to completely revamp the 2016 Honda Civic, and 2017 CRV.

In fact, Chenkin said, “We actually invested nearly $300 million more than our own commitment, bringing the total to over $1.15 billion. We are continuing to invest in the future here at Honda of Canada Manufacturing.”

The new, nearly $500 million investment will allow further modernization and upgrading of the facilities, “including building a state-of-the-art paint shop, which will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from our paint process by 44%, further reducing our manufacturing carbon footprint in Canada. As a result of these upgrades, HCM will continue to provide thousands of well-paying high quality jobs in Alliston and throughout Canada,” Chenkin added.

HCM generates 19,000 Canadian jobs – not only through the direct production of cars “built for Canadians, by Canadians,” but parts suppliers and dealerships, coast to coast, Chenkin said. “Honda's presence is well felt beyond the community of Alliston.”

Minister Duguid downplayed the potential impact of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's protectionist policies.

“Donald Trump is a businessman. He understands rate of return,” said Duguid, and the fact that the back-and-forth trade across the Canada-U.S. border in the Great Lakes area is crucial to the health of not only the auto sector, but the economies of a number of U.S. states.

Trump has promised the return of manufacturing jobs in the northern industrial states, Duguid said. “Many of those jobs depend on an unfettered movement of vehicles across the border.”

Chenkin later explained that the upgrades to the paint shop would be a two-year project. “How we do those things never ceases to amaze me... There is a seamless transition from old to new,” that doesn't halt operations at the plants that produce nearly 400,000 vehicles each year.  



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