Residents of the small community of New Tecumseth are breathing a sigh of relief at the news Simcoe County’s largest employer is upgrading its facility.

On Wednesday, Honda Canada says it will spend $1.38 billion over six years to upgrade its Alliston manufacturing plant to make electric hybrid vehicles. The federal and provincial governments will each be committing more than $131 million to the retooling, news that is welcome by many in the town of Alliston.

“It’s important to any small town to have any kind of investment like that,” says Ian Williamson, the owner of Williamson Automotive. “You will also have perhaps more industry come into town as a result of all of this as well, which is always good.”

Williamson’s family has owned the automotive parts store for more than 40 years, predating Honda’s facility in the town. He’s optimistic about what the redevelopment will mean for the town and area-suppliers.

“As you know, there’s a lot of industrial land just to the south of where we’re standing, so that’s available to be developed and plus with having the rail corridor going through town that is also an incentive for some of the manufacturers as well because it makes it easy for them to get things in and out,” says Williamson.

Those positive thoughts are shared by New Tecumseth Mayor Rick Milne, who was there when shovels first went into the ground more than three decades ago. He was concerned about the future of the plant and the potential loss of thousands of jobs.

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“The whole town of New Tecumseth is very excited about this,” says Milne. “It will create more jobs for our young people who we want to keep them in this area and in saying that then we got to get out and we got to start having affordable housing that people can work here and live here and play here.”

The thought of losing the approximate 4,000 employees was concerning to Frances Pruim, who owns the Next Chapter bookstore downtown.

“I think it’s transformed so much in the diversity of culture that we have here, which is really great because when you have a farming community, the people aren’t used to having different cultures come into town,” says Pruim. “Honda has transformed the shape of the town, but in a nice way. It’s kept the downtown still very quaint, but everything is still exploding around it, so it’s transformed.”

According to Minister Vic Fedeli, who oversees the provincial government’s economic development, job creation and trade portfolio, the government’s next focus is to attract an electric vehicle battery manufacturer.

“[Today’s announcement] gives certainty to the employees here that Honda Canada is going to be here in Alliston for many years to come now,” Fedeli says. “This kind of announcement today goes a very long way to send a signal to the electric vehicle battery manufacturers that Ontario is the place you want to be.”

It’s a message being shared by the federal Liberal government as well.

“For me, this is one of those announcement that you will see 20-30 years from now and say this was foundational for Canada to anchor here in Alliston, here in Ontario the car of the future,” says Francois-Philippe Champagne, the federal minister of innovation, science and industry of Canada.

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“This is good news for Alliston, this is good news for Ontario, but it’s also good news for Canada.”

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