Ontario Trucking News Profiles Cornwall

By Mark Krasuski
June 1, 2012

Ontario Trucking News - Cornwall featureCornwall has been featured in an editorial in the June edition of Ontario Trucking News. The following is the article as written by Marek Krasuski:

Ask the man on the street to rank the importance of trucking and he’ll likely respond with an intelligent generalization about its role in the economy. “Trucks,” our man might predict, “are essential for transporting goods from manufacturers to retailers from where we source our abundant consumer supplies.” Few are likely to rate the logistics sector as an integral component in the process.

Logistics is the storage and distribution of goods and materials, the process that ensures the right products get to the right place at the right time. Without the careful and strategic planning that underlies this process, bikinis would appear on shelves in October and crates of anti-freeze in May would tower over consumers in store aisles.

Widely underappreciated by an unsuspecting public, the logistics sector is assuming a prominent role in the economic future of Cornwall, Ontario. Located beside Highway 401 between Toronto to the west, the nation’s capital to the north and Montreal to the east, this eastern Ontario community is leveraging both its natural and human resources into one of the country’s leading distribution hubs housing corporate giants in the retail and transportation industries. Walmart is a longstanding community partner, providing for over a decade decently paid jobs for area residents in its 1.4 million square foot facility. Recently, Shoppers Drug Mart has built a large facility (600,000 sq. ft.) in the Cornwall Business Park. Target is currently building a new 1.3 million sq. ft. distribution centre, commonly known by the acronym “DC” in industry parlance, is scheduled to open later this year. Land has been sold to transportation companies and the city has seen commensurate growth in transport and service warehouse operations (3PLs).

Bob Peters is the City’s Economic Development Officer and a key player behind the region-wide development initiative that has also seen Sears and Tim Horton’s locate nearby. Cornwall, he says, boasts a strategic geographical advantage. “We occupy a pivotal location in central Canada. We are between Toronto and Montreal on the 401 and share a border crossing with the US right inside the city. Our other locational advantage is proximity to the St. Lawrence Seaway. This places Cornwall in the position of securing easy access to any mode of transportation.” Nestled at the junction of the nation’s two most populous provinces and at a gateway into the United States presents unique opportunities. But success demands more than just location.

Cornwall, along with its regional partners comprising a collection of neighbouring municipalities and operating under the Ontario East Logistics Marketing Team, has taken a decidedly proactive approach to sculpting the area into a national distribution centre. The initiative has been methodical and consistent. The City has been marketing itself for 10 years and preparing for sustained growth. The epicentre of that growth lies in a 1,000 acre business park on the city’s fringe. It is equipped with its own interchange, thereby diverting heavy truck traffic away from city streets. The city has taken the progressive and bold step of waiving development fees, a levy that most municipalities charge for the provision of infrastructure (water, roads, sewers) corridors.

Another incentive designed to attract businesses is the cost of land; it’s affordable. Cornwall’s Bob Peters puts the cost of doing business into perspective. “The cost per acre has recently risen from $20 to $30,000. But this increase is still small in comparison to other municipalities where the price of land runs as high as $400,000 per acre. By establishing a presence in Cornwall companies can save upwards of 40 million dollars on a building project.” Businesses have been paying attention; of the original 1,000 acres slated for development, just over 100 are left.

Aside from the demonstrated enthusiasm of company migration to the region, success is also measured by the dollars these businesses bring with them. “We have had a half-a-billion dollars invested here in 2011 alone, and for the last three years have witnessed consistent growth,” Peters said.

As if savings in development costs were not enough, Cornwall also provides a substantial operating incentive to set up shop. In contrast to the majority of Ontario communities saddled with paying down the province’s burgeoning hydro debt, Cornwall sources its power supply from Hydro Quebec at substantially lower costs. All things considered, rate payers, from residential owners to commercial distribution centres, save between 5 and 30 percent.

Far from performing alone, Cornwall seems to have embraced the principle of collaboration as a strategy in generating success. In addition to working with neighbouring districts that comprise the aforementioned Ontario East Logistics Marketing Team, it has enlisted the support of others too. The Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council and the Supply Chain & Logistics Association of Canada (SCL) are two national bodies which have been integral to helping the community develop the support necessary to manage sustained regional growth.

The city has also reached out to the education community which has responded in kind. St. Lawrence College has established an Advisory Council that will look at developing a post secondary curriculum designed to meet the requirements of the Supply Chain Management industry. Campus Dean, Don Fairweather, said the Advisory Council will include local companies which will assist in providing program information directly relevant to the industry. Aside from the proposed Centre of Excellence the college plans to implement, it has already taken short term measures to address immediate demand. Already in place is a fast track warehouse program that gives graduates entry-level qualifications, including training in fork lift operations and accreditation in WHMIS. The school is aiming to develop a third-year program for graduates that will be prepared for mid level management responsibilities in the industry. These efforts have also generated interest from local school boards who have attended information sessions to learn about the emergent employment opportunities.

Supply chain sector partners are also reaping the benefits of a local workforce accustomed to the industry’s requirements. Cornwall is steeped in a manufacturing industry and, as such, citizens are accustomed to working evenings and weekends. A healthy work ethic, Bob Peters says, translates into a typically low employee turnover rate; music to the ears of employers who can ill afford the disruption and costs associated with an unstable labour market.

An appreciative workforce, strategic location, low development and maintenance costs, coupled with community engagement from many sectors, have earned Cornwall the distinction of major player in the logistics industry. Its success is, perhaps, an instructive model for other communities to follow in harnessing resources that lead to economic development.

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Ontario Trucking News is a high-quality, full-colour, monthly publication serving all of Ontario, Canada since May of 2003. It is published by Woodward Publishing, an independent, 100% Canadian, privately owned and operated publishing company.

Category: Business