The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is working to create more manufacturing space. Sept 13, 2019. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

CK working to boost manufacturing & economy

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is working to create more manufacturing space.

That space is currently “maxed out” according to Jamie Rainbird, Manager of Economic Development Services. He spoke to about 150 manufacturing and business professionals at the Business Appreciation Day on Friday at the John Bradley Convention Centre. He added a lack of available commercial and industrial space, along with a shortage of skilled workers to take vacant local jobs, are the two biggest challenges to growing the local economy.

Stuart McFadden, director of economic development Services, told the crowd that planning is underway to build and expand more manufacturing space but the municipality wants to be smart about it.

Rainbird said his team is connecting potential new manufacturers to local developers so they can buy, lease, or build.

“Businesses that want to come, they need to be where the densest population is, where the workforce is. They also want to be increasingly where the infrastructure is,” said Rainbird.

Rainbird said the goal is to keep attracting new business but the focus is no longer on foreign investment.

“So, now it’s not just a decision of putting money into maintain what we have. For the first time in a long, long time there has to be a decision made on are we going to be investing for future infrastructure and future growth,” he added.

Mayor Darrin Canniff said he has been touring businesses and schools to help attract and keep talent to help business succeed and boost the local economy.

“We ask that question, what could we do to help? The biggest issue that pops up is people. They say we are having hard time finding people to fill our jobs,” Canniff said.

Some business professionals in attendance asked for more of a presence along the Highway 401 corridor.

Rainbird said that rising electricity demand is another big issue because of the cannabis and greenhouse sectors and added the municipality is also keeping a close eye on that.