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John Lacroix was laid off from the Sterling Truck plant in St. Thomas, Ont. and now works part-time at Lear Corp., which will close its plant soon. Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail (Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
John Lacroix was laid off from the Sterling Truck plant in St. Thomas, Ont. and now works part-time at Lear Corp., which will close its plant soon. Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail (Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

REMADE IN CANADA

How the economic storm battered St. Thomas, Ont.'s factories Add to ...

Ford pays about $2.3-million annually in local and school taxes, but that assessment has already been cut in half for the 2009 and 2010 tax years by the Ontario government in a move that Southwold and Elgin County are appealing.

The township increased residential taxes by 7 per cent or about $140 per household this year. But if Mr. McIntyre loses his appeal, he’ll have to come up with another $400,000 to cover the township’s portion of the refund to Ford.

The taxes that go to local municipalities and the healthy United Way contributions from people at Sterling and Ford were financed by jobs that pay some of the highest hourly wages in manufacturing in the country.

Production workers at Ford earn $33.90 an hour and have benefit packages that are among the best for workers in the manufacturing sector in Canada. When Sterling closed, assembly line workers were paid $29.16 an hour.

In contrast, the postings at the local Employment Services office on a recent morning revealed few manufacturing jobs available. There were postings for construction labour jobs paying $12 to $15 an hour, notices for truck drivers at $14 and a lawn-care crew-leader job paying $12.

This spring, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. held a job fair to fill openings at a call centre in St. Thomas. The jobs started at $10.25 – less than one-third of what Ford workers are making. More than 100 people turned out to apply.

Mr. Wheeler, the economic development officer, says St. Thomas is still trying to entice other manufacturers to set up shop in the city, but is putting a new emphasis on diversifying into food production and the green economy.

And with the ever-present sense of salesmanship that is a prerequisite for those holding his job, he even points to the Ford plant as representing a great opportunity for a manufacturer because it's close to Highways 401 and 402 and one of the railways that gave the city its name as the railway capital of Canada.

It's for sale for about $22-million.

 

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