Events this month have me thinking of development issues akin to a certain 1980s movie.
Readers may not be aware but the London Chamber of Commerce has a direct stake and an historical connection to Electro-Motive Diesel.
The chamber played a role in negotiating the establishment of the General Motors Diesel Division plant with city officials in 1949. Bringing that plant to London was a benchmark in the industrial growth, paving the way for other substantial companies, such as 3M, to locate here.
Skip forward 63 years and we’re saying goodbye to the current owners and regrettably its workforce, at least for now.
It’s a good a time to say thank you to the many hundreds of workers who put those excellent products out to market over the years and who now find themselves without work. So, thank you for all of your efforts over the years and your contributions to London’s economy. It’s been very much appreciated.
In contrast to the aforementioned workforce, it would be easy for me to say we saw this coming a long time ago. It might also be easy for me to climb on the Caterpillar-bashing bandwagon, but for what purpose and to what end?
Instead I thought I would offer the following mockup of an ad that as a city we should consider sending out to the rest of the world:
Attention Global Markets:
Offering: One world-class manufacturing facility
Location: London, Ontario, Canada
Available workforce: More than 600 fully trained professionals, tops in productivity and quality output
Compensation requirements: Fair and competitive wages and benefits
Quality of living standards: Second to none
Corporate tax rates: Best among G7 or G8 or G20 countries
Health-care facilities: Best in country
Post-secondary education facilities: Tops in their class
Economic development services: Ready, willing and more than able
Thanks are also in order over at London International Airport.
A huge chamber thank you has to go out to retiring president and chief executive Steve Baker for his enormous contributions over his 20-year career in London. Steve provided extraordinary leadership, including the development of an airport that is modern and ideally positioned to serve its customers as well as support economic growth in Southwestern Ontario.
Steve’s tireless efforts have transformed our airport into a modern, efficient and fiscally fit operation that acts as the regional hub for air services.
Moreover, he’s also turned the airport into an economic development dynamo with more than 53 businesses calling it home.
I had the unique opportunity this week to be interviewed by Fox News out of its Chicago bureau. It flew a crew in to London to follow up on a story they were doing about why an American auto parts firm would elect to move to London in spite of all the noise south of the border by President Barack Obama and his party about repatriating jobs to the States.
Fox had caught wind of the editorial I had authored earlier in this paper about the importance of a combined 25% federal/ provincial corporate tax rate and why we as a country need that rate to overcome the many hundreds of incentives American jurisdictions offer companies.
More importantly, I emphasized the need for the premier to follow through on his promise to drop the current 13% provincial corporate tax rate down to 10% by 2013, thus enabling a 25% combined rate with the feds.
I’ll be the first to admit that this particular auto parts firm did not elect to move here based solely on our corporate tax advantage. Indeed, location, proximity to the Toyota plant and the availability of high-grade steel played critical parts.
But that corporate tax rate is starting to reverberate south of the border and for my money, it’s a trump card that we have and we had better learn how to play it and soon.
So, thanks to Fox News for covering the story. Thanks, too, to this auto parts firm for its conviction, trust in our economy and investment in our community.