Stew Slater/St. Marys Journal Argus
According to St. Marys CAO Kevin McLlwain, at one point the town “was not in the running” to become the home of Canada’s largest tire remanufacturing factory. But, as is evident from this week’s announcement in Toronto — attended by Mayor Steve Grose, Green Arc Tire Manufacturing COO Mike DiCenzo, Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley, and representatives of the Ontario Safety League — the Stonetown eventually found its way onto the list.
In an interview with the St. Marys Journal Argus, McLlwain said town officials first received a tip about Green Arc Tire’s possible interest in setting up shop in London. That’s when they began making contacts with the company.
Then came subsequent reports that the company had undertaken discussions with municipal leaders in Cambridge and Tillsonburg.
McLlwain says the first in-depth meeting between St. Marys and Green Arc took place in Toronto during the 2013 Good Roads Conference, an annual February get-together for operators and administrators of road and transportation systems throughout Ontario.
The former Dana manufacturing facility on James Street South had been sitting empty for nearly five years, and the Town of St. Marys had been eagerly searching for a suitable industrial employer to replace the several hundred job losses incurred when the truck chassis manufacturer consolidated operations and closed its St. Marys plant. McLlwain confirmed there had been discussions with other companies, and agreed that some of the same challenges faced during preliminary talks with those companies surfaced once again during discussions with Green Arc.
“Like any business when they’re trying to buy a property, there are certain things that have to be overcome,” the St. Marys CAO commented.
The town doesn’t own the property — it’s still owned by the Dana corporation — and can’t interfere directly in negotiations. But McLlwain said the town did act as “a facilitator” between the out-of-town real estate agent and Green Arc.
Additionally, the town was called upon to provide assurances to Green Arc about the availability of a suitable workforce in the vicinity, the suitability of municipal services available at the site, and the willingness of the municipality to assist in bringing about a smooth transition from property purchase to industrial production.
McLlwain adds that, at the same time, the Town of St. Marys was undertaking its own efforts of due diligence, investigating whether or not Green Arc looked like it could deliver on what it was promising.
“Any time you put the word ‘tire’ on something, people tend to get a little nervous,” he said. But “all indications were” that the company had done its homework with regards to minimizing the environmental impact of its operations. And it also proposed to use a “tire remanufacturing” technology that has so far been proven in Europe and Brazil to have environmental benefits that — thanks to the recycling of what might otherwise become discarded tires — far outweigh any effects of transporting and processing used tires on the site.
Once all these challenges were overcome, McLlwain said, it came down to proving that St. Marys was the right place for the Canadian-owned Green Arc to launch its endeavour. And he happily reported that was probably the easiest part.
“One of the biggest selling points, at least from what I’ve been told, was the Town of St. Marys itself — the look and feel of the town and the community,” he said.
DiCenzo confirmed this sentiment in an interview earlier this week. “I got a real sense of comfort,” he said of the town.
“Once we got the developers and the investors to come, St. Marys kind of sold itself,” McLlwain said.