Feds to work with China Steel, Northern companies (3 photos)Monday, October 28, 2013 by: Darren Taylor
Minister of State for Science and Technology Greg Rickford (pictured at left with China Steel President Fred China, along with Sault Ste. Marie MP Bryan Hayes and China Steel Vice President Carlo China) announced a new initiative Monday designed to help Northern Ontario manufacturers at China Steel’s Industrial Park office.
China Steel is a well-established Sault Ste. Marie firm that specializes in customized equipment manufacturing and steel fabrication for clients in Northern Ontario, as well as province-wide, nation-wide and overseas.
With that, Rickford, who also serves as Minister responsible for FedNor and the Ring of Fire, announced that small to medium sized Northern Ontario companies may now apply through FedNor’s new Targeted Manufacturing Initiative (TMI) for financing needed for “operational assessments” and upgrades to manufacturing equipment to compete in the global economy.
The TMI program, Rickford said, will lead to boosted productivity, increased exports and job creation for Northern Ontario companies.
Rickford said that under TMI, Northern Ontario manufacturers (with less than 500 employees) will be eligible to apply for FedNor loans for new equipment purchases, which include digital hardware and software, equipment upgrades and installation, associated training costs as well as quality and control implementation.
“What TMI means is that companies can get resources from FedNor to perform operational assessments, and FedNor will match up to 50 percent of the cost, up to $15,000,” Rickford said.
Rickford added: “You don’t need an operational assessment to access the second part of TMI.”
“The productivity improvements and capital equipment improvements, through repayable loans with no interest, are up to $500,000.”
Companies will have to match that amount under the TMI program.
TMI does not mean new money from FedNor, but a shifting of existing FedNor funding.
Rickford said: “We’re operating within FedNor’s current budget and prioritizing our money to help small and medium sized manufacturers in Northern Ontario because they’re the job creators, they’re the ones that have big roles in our economic environment and our communities, so we’ve shifted our priorities and through this initiative we feel like that’s going to help the companies that hire people in our towns and cities.”
In January, under Canada’s Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRB) policy, China Steel received a $1 million contract with a defence contractor.
Rickford did not disclose details of any particular applications for TMI, but told reporters: “We chose China Steel (for today’s announcement) because they represent the kind of industries FedNor wants to work with.”
The announcement comes in the wake of a recently announced, historic Canada-E.U. Free Trade agreement.
The federal government has said that the trade deal, though yet to be ratified by both Canada and the European Union’s member states, will open up a massive new market of opportunities for Canadian businesses within manufacturing, fishery, agriculture, forestry and other sectors, creating almost 80,000 jobs.
Free trade deals, such as the Canada-E.U. pact, work both ways of course, meaning China Steel and all Canadian manufacturers will face competition from European companies.
No worries, Rickford told SooToday.com.
“There’s nothing wrong with good competition.”
“Obviously there are tariff issues, but when it comes to steel production and equipment we believe we can compete with the best of them,” Rickford said.
“China Steel has already demonstrated that…they send their products around the world.”
The steel fabrication industry, Rickford added, is well positioned for the mammoth Ring of Fire project.
“We want local, distinctly Northern Ontario manufacturers involved in job creation for the Ring of Fire, from top to bottom.”
China Steel Inc. President Fred China, speaking to reporters, said he was pleased with business developments between his firm and overseas clients in the Czech Republic, India and the Netherlands, but emphasized: “We have technology from 2000, but now we’re looking at 2013, so therefore we have to update and upgrade in order to be more efficient.”
“We have to do what we do much faster and not increase the price, that’s what the industry requires out there today,” China said.
“We have to really move on technology and this program from FedNor will really help, definitely.”