The province took Umicore to a “menu” of possible sites across Ontario before the company opted for the Kingston area, Fedeli said. He would not say how many sites.
Miedreich cited the area’s talent pool as among the company’s chief reasons for selecting the site. He also pointed to wider-reaching priorities, such as Ontario’s clean-electricity grid and the availability of resources within Canada.
As Umicore plans for the new plant, scheduled to open by the end of 2025, it is already considering expansion. Aside from PCAM and CAM, the company is exploring further vertical integration through mineral refining and battery recycling at the 350-acre site (140 hectares), Miedreich said.
The Umicore plant would be the first site in Canada to produce PCAM and is among a select few in North America targeting CAM.
Canada is already well-positioned for production of the mix of materials that make up the positive end of a battery cell. On March 4, Germany-based chemical company BASF announced a battery-materials plant in Bécancour, Que. General Motors made a similar but unrelated announcement March 7.
The cost, availability and shovel-readiness of land are among the reasons the battery supply chain is skewing east, economic developers say. The Umicore project reinforces the importance of land preparedness, said Jay Amer, executive director of the Ontario East Economic Development Commission, which serves as a conduit between companies, the province and regional economic development agencies.
“Everybody’s got a field, but that doesn’t quite cut it,” Amer said. “The big challenge in our communities is getting elected officials to invest in having serviced land investmentand shovel-ready.”
For Umicore’s deal, Loyalist Township was prepared. The municipality owned the plot of land outright, which greatly simplified the acquisition, said Paul, the Lennox and Addington County official. The land was also already zoned for manufacturing and had the proper road and rail links.
STILL ACCESS TO U.S.
Paul expects companies to continue looking east for a ready supply of land that is “competitively priced” compared with the Greater Toronto Area and southwestern Ontario.
The region does present some challenges, particularly regarding proximity to the United States, but while it is farther from the traditional automotive heartland in the Midwest, Eastern Ontario still offers vital links south, Amer said.
“A lot of companies that come in [to Eastern Ontario], they want to get into the U.S. market, and they suddenly realize there are three uncongested border crossings [in the Kingston area],” he said. “It’s not Windsor, it’s not Buffalo or Fort Erie, and that’s one of our selling points.”
Like Paul, Amer expects a major change to the Eastern Ontario investment climate after Umicore’s announcement.
“I think of Toyota going into Woodstock [in 2009], and the world changed there,” he said. “Seeing the growth come in our direction is something we work with every day….This is going to be a project we’ll see a lot of benefits from, and success breeds success.”