City asks Essex County to help fund battery plant prep

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The City of Windsor has asked the County of Essex to help cover costs associated with supporting the $5 billion automobile battery plant coming to the city’s east side.

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In an email to Essex County CAO Mike Galloway obtained by the Star, City of Windsor CAO Jason Reynar on Tuesday asked the county to consider participating “financially as a partner” in land acquisition for the plant, “and share some of the costs of this regionally significant investment.”

Last spring, “InvestWE presented an opportunity for county council in a closed session to financially support” the then potential manufacturing facility in Windsor, Reynar wrote. “We understand the county declined to participate at that time.”

The email preceded Wednesday’s announcement that Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions will build Canada’s first giga factory on 220 acres (88 hectares) at the corner of EC Row Avenue and Banwell Road extending south up to the Canadian Pacific Railway Tracks. The plant will directly employ 2,500 people, produces at least one million watts of power, and is the largest investment in the history of Canada’s auto industry.

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The city’s role was to assemble land for the site, which wasn’t initially on the market. The city is still negotiating to acquire one residential lot.

The land acquisition is expected to cost between $40 million and $50 million.

The city has agreed to provide financial incentives of close to $150 million in the form of foregone lease revenue, development charge waivers, and tax breaks under its Community Improvement Plans that will see the site taxed at current agricultural rates for the first 20 years.

In addition, the city will contribute about $8 million for mostly site-related preparations, including moving an open drain that crosses the middle of the property.

Reynar’s email also asks that the county consider participating “in the advocacy necessary to persuade the federal and provincial governments to provide funding for the necessary infrastructure improvements” to facilitate the project, including work on EC Row and Banwell.

Both the provincial and federal governments have committed hundreds of millions of dollars of incentives to land the plant.

“As you know, economic development opportunities of this magnitude do not materialize often,” Reynar wrote. “The proposed investment would be the largest in Ontario’s history and would benefit both the County of Essex and the City of Windsor for decades to come.”

Essex County Warden Gary McNamara could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

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