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'This is the place to build the future': St. Thomas, Ont. Volkswagen plant to create 3,000 jobs

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A major announcement took place Friday morning in St. Thomas that detailed plans for a future Volkswagen electric vehicle (EV) battery plant, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford in attendance.

Friday’s announcement kicked off just after 10:30 a.m. in St. Thomas, and joining Trudeau and Ford was Frank Blome, CEO of PowerCo SE, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Vic Fedeli, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston and local representatives.

Announced on March 13, 2023, the new St. Thomas facility, located south of London, Ont., will be the German automaker’s first overseas electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant.

The 370 acre manufacturing facility — larger than 378 American football fields — is expected to cost $7 billion to build, will create up to 3,000 skilled jobs, and an additional 30,000 indirect jobs. In addition, once operational, the plant will produce batteries for up to one million electric vehicles per year. 

In his speech, Trudeau said that building a strong Canada means building a strong future for the middle class and for our children.

“The reason we are here is because of them,” Trudeau said while pointing to a group of St. Thomas citizens who’d attended the event. “This is the place to build the future — together.”

Volkswagen secured the exclusive contract of $13 billion over the next 10 years to build the electric vehicle battery plant in the Railway City. The contract will include up-front capital of $700 million and up to $13 billion in subsidies.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks on April 21, 2023 during a major Volkswagen electric vehicle battery announcement in St. Thomas, Ont. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London))

The subsidies are designed to match what Volkswagen would have received had it chosen a location in the United States to construct the facility.

“This will develop the economy,” said Trudeau. “Everyone wanted this. [This is] money that’s going to come back in economic investments very quickly.”

The new Volkswagen gigafactory will be worth $200 billion to the Canadian economy over the coming decades, added Trudeau.

During his speech, Ford said Ontario is providing $500 million in direct support to the project, and further funds to expand infrastructure throughout the region, including police and fire services, as well as improvements to roads, highways and utility services.

Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Vic Fedeli speaks in St. Thomas, Ont. during a Volkswagen electric vehicle battery announcement on April 21, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

Ford said the $270 million in annual provincial tax revenue earned from the plant will be reinvested back into Ontario.

From steel in Hamilton to EV batteries in St. Thomas, Ford said the cars of the future will be made from start to finish in Ontario.

In response to criticism over the project, Trudeau said confident countries invest in their workers and the future, and their continued investment in addressing climate change and clean energy is part of the reason why Volkswagen chose St. Thomas.

“What kind of future do we want to build?” asked Trudeau.

A new electric vehicle is displayed in St. Thomas, Ont. ahead of an announcement by Volkswagen on April 21, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London) Measuring 1,500 acres in size, the St. Thomas site (which includes the entire industrial and supplier park)  beat out at least 90 other locations from around the world, including 40 in North America.

According to Champagne, the site will be the largest manufacturing plant in Canada.

Construction on the facility is expected to begin next year, and will be operational by 2027.

“Volkswagen — welcome to Ontario,” said Ford.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available

— With files from CTV News London’s Bryan Bicknell, Daryl Newcombe, Gerry Dewan and Kristylee Varley

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