Hamilton moves fast to land Navistar centre
A major industrial investment Hamilton wasn’t supposed to get is under construction now in the city’s Red Hill Business Park.
The massive new Navistar parts distribution centre on Glover Road will keep up to 60 jobs in the Hamilton-Burlington area that could have been lost to Mississauga.
Joe Kory, vice-president of global parts distribution for Navistar, said when the company started looking for a new home for the parts centre currently located in Burlington, a site in Hamilton wasn’t even on its radar.
“We did have other options and we did quite an extensive search before everything came together for us here,” he told a groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility Tuesday. “The transportation worked here, this site worked well for our employees and the co-operation we got from the city on short notice sealed the deal.”
He said the company initially wanted to move into an existing building closer to the GTA, but “when we started looking at what was available we became more open to building something.”
Neil Everson, the city’s director of economic development, said Hamilton officials started talking to the land owner about pitching Navistar for the new investment in January. On May 4 an urgent meeting was requested with city staff — that was held three days later and four days after that senior staff and Navistar were consulting on the project.
By mid-July a conditional site plan agreement was finished and the project was ready to go.
Joe Hamadi, president of Woodbridge-based Sora Group, the land owner, said while Hamilton wasn’t on Navistar’s site selection radar the “can do” attitude of city officials changed that.
“Navistar was looking for a location and our location was not on the list of preferred sites,” he said. “We met with the mayor on one day’s notice and he said the city would do everything possible to make this happen. We do developments in many places, but Hamilton has shown it is truly the place to invest. Hamilton is clearly a municipality that wants investment and can deliver service.”
Barely seven months from first contact to site plan agreement is near lightning speed for an economic development project, Everson said, adding the rails were greased in this case by working with a company that knew the municipal approvals process.
“They were just great to deal with,” he said. “We were dealing with a developer and with guys who know how a municipality works.”
The multimillion dollar, 250,000-square-foot facility will serve as Navistar’s parts distribution centre for eastern Canada, handling parts for its International and IC Bus vehicles, MaxxForce diesel engines, and all makes of commercial trucks. The distribution centre will be completed by May 2014.
Hamadi explained the project is a build-lease arrangement — his group owns the land and arranged for the construction of a building to suit Navistar’s needs in exchange for a 10-year lease.
Navistar has been in its Burlington location for 50 years but the new technology needed to give the parts system greater efficiency demands a new site.
The construction project will create about 20 full-time jobs for a year. Local suppliers and trades will be used as much as possible, Hamadi said.
The new Navistar centre is across Glover Road from the under-construction Maple Leaf Foods meat processing plant.
Everson said this project will mean about one quarter of the Glanbrook park’s 160 hectares has been developed.
While the investment means nothing in terms of new jobs for Hamilton, it’s important exposure to an international company.
Navistar, headquartered in Lisle, Ill., was born in 1986 from the remnants of International Harvester, once one of Hamilton’s bayfront industrial giants.
Mayor Bob Bratina welcomed the company back to Hamilton for what he hopes will be a long stay.
“We were once known for all of the big companies that were located here,” he said. “Now we’re seeing some of these companies come back. There’s a new cycle of new industries in Hamilton. We’re beginning a new chapter in Hamilton’s life with this great company.”
In a news release Bratina said “to have this company return to our community is another major step in our continued renaissance. It also demonstrates that the investment this council made in our economic development function was money well spent as it continues to provide measurable returns in non-residential assessment and jobs.”
Article courtesy The Hamilton Spectator.