Nearly a month after a $5 billion automobile battery plant was announced for Windsor, the city’s mayor journeyed to Poland this week to tour Europe’s largest giga factory and attract related supply chain components to Windsor.
Drew Dilkens on Tuesday told the Star the city wants to secure businesses that will feed products to the Windsor plant — businesses already up and running in Wroclaw, Poland — to offset some of the expenses the city incurred to land Canada’s first giga factory.
Suppliers must locate within a 100-kilometre radius of the Windsor plant, meaning they could set up as far away as Sarnia, Toledo, or just outside Flint. But Dilkens said discussions about housing the supply chain in Windsor to meet the plant’s targeted 2024 opening have been going “very well.”
“The timelines that they (suppliers) have are just as aggressive as the battery factory itself,” Dilkens said. “They’re making decisions now, which is why we can’t sit back and wait. We’ve got to be here now trying to get our foot in the door and pushing Windsor as the destination.”
A number of supply companies could be situated on airport land, where the city has “quite a few acres,” he said.
Stellantis and LG Energy Solution in March announced they will build an automobile battery plant on Windsor’s east side that will directly employ 2,500 people and create thousands more spinoff jobs.
The city’s role in securing the investment was to assemble land for the site, which wasn’t initially on the market, for an expected $40 million to $50 million. The city will also offer tax breaks that will see the land taxed at current agricultural rates for the first 20 years, and it will chip in about $8 million for mostly on-site related preparations, including moving an open drain that crosses the property.
“Because we’ve made the big investment with the battery factory, it’s important to me, it’s important to the city, that we have a chance to generate revenue that would be earned from hosting the supply chain,” Dilkens said. “That would help offset the expense that we’ve incurred to acquire the land.”
The newly announced plant will be located on 220 acres at the corner of EC Row Avenue and Banwell Road. It will cover 4.5 million square feet, making it slightly larger than Stellantis’s Windsor Assembly Plant, and is the largest investment in the history of the Canadian auto industry.
With the capacity to produce four gigawatts annually, the Windsor plant is said to be the largest of the 13 battery plants announced to begin production in North America by 2025.
The federal and provincial governments both committed hundreds of millions of dollars of incentives to land the plant.
The LG Energy Solution battery plant in western Poland will serve as a template for the Windsor plant, Dilkens said.
“The level of automation, the level of robotics, the level of sophistication in this facility is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he said.
During his tour, he said he was told Windsor’s factory would be “the next level up,” and would be “the LG battery factory that has the best equipment in the world when it opens.
“If your kids are wondering what to do, get them into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Get them into robot technician programs — because there is going to be so much work to do here for decades that they will all be very strong careers for young people to take.”
Also in March, the European Commission approved €95 million (about $129 million) to expand LG’s lithium-ion battery cell factory in Poland. With the expansion, the plant is expected to supply more than 295,000 electric vehicle batteries per year.
In 2017, LG Chem, South Korean parent company of LG Energy Solutions, opted to invest €1 billion ($1.363 million) to expand production capacity at the Wroclaw plant.
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