The mayor of Leduc is seeing light at the end of the city's two-year economic slump and he's betting the automotive industry can help drive the turnaround forward.
The Ford Motor Company will open a new automotive parts warehouse and distribution centre in the Leduc Business Park, the city announced Tuesday.
"Ford is a multinational company that really sets the bar when it comes to distribution of parts, etc.," Leduc Mayor Greg Krischke told CBC News. "We think this will be a catalyst for others that will want to settle in our region."
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The 400,000-square-foot distribution centre, set to open in the fall of 2018 and serve Western Canadian markets, is expected to bring about 70 jobs to Leduc.
"This is a bright spot. We've seen some really good signs in the last little while," Krischke said.
In a statement Wednesday, Ford of Canada said it is relocating the existing Edmonton Parts and Distribution Centre facility at 116th Avenue and 181st Street to Leduc.
"We have outgrown our existing facility," Ford spokesperson Michelle Lee-Gracey told CBC News, adding the new facility is "almost double the working space of the old facility."
Lee-Gracey said the new plant will include "an enhanced working environment for our employees including a state-of-the-art gym, open concept atmosphere and LED lighting."
The mayor said he hopes it will mean more people moving to Leduc.
During the economic downturn, over 20 per cent of the city's buildings were vacant.
Today, that's down to nine per cent, the mayor added.
Some of the businesses moving into the area recently include clean technologies and value-added agriculture.
Krischke said the city is looking to diversify its economy away from traditional oil and gas, and acknowledged the automotive industry is not necessarily a reflection of the new wave of green businesses it's hoping to attract.
"Business is business," Krischke said. "We're not going to be replacing automobiles in probably the next 50 years."
"Ford is a very reputable company. Certainly we are not just going to be converting so that all that we're doing is producing windmills and solar panels."
Krischke hinted more businesses that are not related to the auto industry are expected to move into the Leduc area soon.
He said Leduc's location beside the international airport and on the main railway line are two geographic reasons the city is a desirable place for businesses to locate.
A 500,000-square-foot mall is also set to open in the spring near the airport.
The new distribution centre is one of two for Ford Canada. The other is in Bramalea, Ont.