Back in the December 2005-January 2006 issue of Building (and collectors, hold on to your back issues, because anything before 2007 doesn’t exist online) we wrote an extensive report on the small town of Woodstock, Ont., which we felt was “in transition” especially given the announcement that Toyota had selected them for their seventh North American assembly plant. While small towns courting new businesses is nothing new, Woodstock has been doing an admirable job, especially with companies who are major players in their respective industries choosing Woodstock for new industrial or headquarter buildings. In the second half of 2012 alone there have been announcements about a 400,000 square foot building being built by Sysco Canada, a new head office being constructed by Execulink Telecom, a significant expansion by Timberland Equipment, and Nova Steel’s move into Woodstock.
“[These] investments continue our long term strategy of diversifying the economic base of the community,” said Mayor Pat Sobeski, and a look at some of the unique features Woodstock has to offer may begin to shed some light on why: municipal industrial land prices ranging from $55,000 - $100,000 per acre, with sites as large as 100 acres available; there is a stable and growing workforce of 1 million residents within a one hour commute of Woodstock; site plan approvals in as little as two weeks; there is no annual stormwater management fees on industrial lands; legal and survey costs are included in the price of municipally owned land; and there is no Parkland Dedication Fees on industrial construction. And perhaps the sweetest carrot is the recent cap on industrial building permit fees.
A major player in North America’s steel industry, Nova Steel Inc. is in the process of expanding the existing 148,000-sq.-ft. facility and has acquired the former Hobart Brothers industrial building located at 807 Pattullo Ave. to do so. Construction crews are working on adding about 25, -sq.-ft. to the building’s south end. A timeline for the opening of the new facility is not yet available but new jobs will be created. While there has been no indication of the number of people the company will hire locally, several job ads in The Sentinel-Review have been posted. Nova Steel produces electric-welded steel tubing which is used for a variety of markets, including the manufacturing of automobiles, construction equipment, agricultural equipment, appliances and heavy equipment. They operate in 12 different locations in Central Canada, two locations in the U.S., and employ more than 1,125 people.
The sale of the Hobart Brothers building three years after the company shut its doors is just one of several good news economic stories in Woodstock this year. City Economic Development Officer Brad Hammond said the city’s economic development department has been getting a number of high quality inquiries regarding land sales. “Our levels are up and the inquiries seem more certain,” Hammond said. The city’s new dual/redundant 50/83 transformer station, being built near CommerceWay Business Park, is a big draw for potential industries. The new transformer station will double the power supply, resulting in better power quality and more security for industrial consumers in the Woodstock area.
Timberland Equipment Limited has been designing and manufacturing specialized equipment from its Woodstock facility since 1947. Timberland is a global leader in the integrated design, manufacture and support of engineered winches, hoists, sheaves, derricks and tensioning equipment for the world’s most challenging infrastructure and capital equipment projects. Their engineered projects can be found in over 50 countries across a wide range of sectors, such as the reconstruction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and elaborate stage rigging for Cirque Du Soleil.
A 29,600-sq.-ft. expansion to their facility is currently underway and will provide an additional 24,000-sq.-ft. of manufacturing space to accommodate the continued growth of their business. “Significant opportunities exist for growth in the markets we serve including offshore oil and gas, electric utilities, underground mining, construction projects, and workboat marine. The scope of projects we are involved in has also grown and over the past year, we’ve added 30 people to our team of engineers, welders, machinists, assembler mechanics, and technicians,” said Brad Vollmershausen, Timberland vice president and general manager. The new manufacturing space will have 42-ft ceilings to accommodate the physical size of the equipment
Timberland engineers and manufactures and will include a new 50 ton crane and two 20 ton cranes. A custom designed test pit will allow easier handling of equipment for factory acceptance performance testing. Construction of the additional manufacturing space was awarded to Vance Construction of Woodstock.
This past August, Execulink Telecom announced they will build their new headquarters and state-of-the- art Data Centre in Woodstock and is expected to be operational in the first half of 2013. “Building on a fully serviced industrial ‘signature site’ in the Pattullo Ridge
Business Park will provide the company with an opportunity to showcase their brand to the people traveling the highway 401 corridor,” said Development Commissioner Len Magyar. In operation since 1904, Execulink Telecom has evolved from a small independent local telephone company into one of the leading telecommunications providers in Ontario. Their offerings include a full-scale suite of telecommunications services including data, internet, cable television, and advanced voice features. These services are now available to all levels of industry, encompassing 50,000 business, enterprise, government, and residential customers.
On July 27th, Woodstock and Sysco Canada officials announced their plans to build a new 400,000-sq-.ft. food distribution facility in the city’s CommerceWay Business Park. The agreement between the city and Sysco was made official during a closed-door council meeting that approved the sale of 57 acres (23 hectares) of vacant industrial land to the Texas-based food-distribution giant for approximately $2.7 million.
Mayor Pat Sobeski welcomed the official announcement of Sysco’s investment in the community by saying, “Sysco is a Fortune 75 company, and their decision to invest in Woodstock says plenty about the benefits our community can offer a new or expanding business.” City staff worked diligently to secure the Sysco investment for well over a year. Through the process, Woodstock advanced from a long list of prospective communities to a short list of locations that were invited to respond to a formal request for proposal, and ultimately to a preferred site for the company’s investment.
Construction of the new facility will begin in the fall, and should be complete by November 2013. When at capacity, the facility should employ 250 to 350 people. Sysco Corporation, headquartered in Houston, Texas, sells, markets and distributes food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, lodging establishments and other customers who prepare meals away from home, primarily in the United States and Canada. Its family of products also includes equipment and supplies for the foodservice and hospitality industries. The company operates 177 distribution facilities serving approximately 400,000 customers. For the fiscal year 2011 the company generated record sales of more than $39 billion.
The Children’s Aid Society of Oxford County (CAS) began construction on their new three-story, 35,000-sq.-ft. facility in late August at the corner of Peel and Wilson streets and is expected to be completed in a year’s time. The construction cost will be approximately $9.6 million, and will unite all of their services and staff into a single facility. The agency will continue to maintain a physical presence in other parts of the County through a satellite office in Tillsonburg and co-location arrangements in Ingersoll and other parts of the County.
Year to Date Building Permits
Total building permit values for the City of Woodstock top $103 million to September 30th. By value, residential permits are already at their highest level ever, even before Q4 numbers were tallied. Commercial and institutional permits remain strong in their own right and industrial permit values have returned to their highest level in five years. More great numbers are expected out of the industrial sector as a number of imminent larger permits are expected to be issued soon.
This good fortune is attributable to many factors, but one clearly would be that in addition to having no development charges for industrial construction, City Council recently approved a by-law to cap building permit fees at a maximum of $25,000. The cap applies to all industrial construction less than 500,000-sq.-ft. “A cap of $25,000 is reasonable to cover off the costs associated with an industrial building permit application of this size” says Woodstock Chief Building Official, Craig Wallace. Based on the current building permit fee schedule of 24 cents per square foot for construction up to 50,000 square feet and 12 cents per square foot on everything thereafter, the cap represents a significant cost savings for buildings larger than 195,000 square feet, up to a half million square feet.
“Industrial development represents the heart of the Woodstock economy,” said Magyar. “A strong industrial sector encourages using local resources, which enhances economic opportunities in a sustainable way for the well-being of the community”. While Woodstock has been fortunate in maintaining a high level of industrial employment, the competition for new jobs is fierce. When campaigning for new investments, municipalities often have only one chance to influence the decision making process when a company is in search of investment opportunities.