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With past cuts behind it, NRC looks to future

Ottawa to invest $60M to boost manufacturing

NRC Building on Ellice Avenue.

NRC Building on Ellice Avenue.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/6/2015 (1833 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE National Research Council will be making a $60-million commitment to build a new facility in Winnipeg as part of its Factory of the Future initiative.

For several months the Harper government has been releasing information in bits and pieces about the national program to ensure the country's manufacturing base stays on the leading edge.

Last fall, it said Winnipeg would be the site of a significant piece in the plan.

Still mostly conceptual, the idea is to leverage the NRC's expertise, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and specialized equipment to assist Canadian manufacturers to develop new technologies and processes.

The impetus is to get ahead of increasingly competitive global markets where emerging economies are acquiring the capability to do high-quality work faster and cheaper.

Two weeks ago, it said it would invest $5 million in its London, Ont., facility.

The size of the Winnipeg investment is substantial and will likely be the largest in Western Canada. In addition to London, and Winnipeg, this manufacturing initiative will also have a presence in Montreal.

Ian Potter, the NRC's vice-president of engineering, was in Winnipeg for the announcement Friday.

"This is one of the biggest infrastructure announcements we've had for many years," he said. "It's very significant. We're very proud of this."

Potter said the location of the site has yet to be determined and would not be pinned down as to the schedule of development other than to say he expects the doors will be open in three years.

Dave O'Connor, the division manager at Magellan Aerospace, where the announcement was made, said, "We're very happy this is happening in Manitoba. It's a great stride forward."

It's particularly noteworthy in that the Harper government shut down the NRC's former Institute for BioDiagnostics in 2012.

About 60 NRC staffers remain based there, but Potter said it was not likely that Ellice Avenue building would be suitable for what's being envisioned for this advanced manufacturing initiative.

"The needs around the Factory of the Future are not practical to be in a downtown location," he said.

Potter said the $60-million investment is only for the building and does not include the equipment that will eventually be installed. He would not disclose details about staffing required but said, "I expect there will be a substantial number of people required."

The presence of several senior officials from other research facilities in the city on hand to hear Potter and Lawrence Toet, the MP for Elmwood-Transcona, make the announcement underlines how the centre will engage in substantial collaboration with public and private organizations.

Mike Hudek, the vice-president of business development and operations at the Composites Innovation Centre, said, "This is going to make a big difference. The best approach to take is for all of us working together to impact change in the industry."

The Winnipeg facility will have a national reach, but it is clearly going to provide some specific focus for the local aerospace, bus and agricultural equipment manufacturers all of which face growing global competition.

O'Connor made the point that while there are expected to be about 40,000 additional aircraft in the skies around the world in the next 20 years, most of them are being purchased by airlines and users in Asia.

"Typically where the sales flow, the work also flows. Emerging markets like Mexico and India and other countries are becoming more and more capable. For us to stay competitive we have to invest in technology and education."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

Read full biography

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