The expansion of a local tomato canning company into the Asian market is expected to generate jobs in the Windsor-Essex area.

Thomas Canning Co. announced earlier this year it will be exporting its goods to Nigeria after receiving $3 million from the provincial government for the expansion of its Maidstone plant, southeast of Windsor.

"There's a lot of opportunity on jobs from local companies ... so those could be labels, cans, maintenance supplies, also distribution," said Bill Thomas, CEO of the company. "If you increase your capacity, you increase your number of growers, so the grower base, also the transportation from the grower to the processor, from the processor to the warehousing and distribution. So all the way along the chain, it's creating jobs."

Who's affected

  • Thomas Canning — Maidstone
  • Farmers — Essex County
  • Harvesters — Essex County
  • Greenhouse Transplant Producers — Leamington
  • Crown Metal Packaging — Chatham
  • Spencer Butcher Logistics — Windsor
  • Douglas Marketing — Windsor
  • Curtis JK Printing — Windsor
  • Titanium Trucking — Windsor

Thomas said he couldn't give an exact number of how many jobs would be created by the expansion because so many other companies will be affected. 

"For us in the facility itself, it's going to increase our production dramatically," he said. "But they're not going to be like we talked before, past jobs that were highly manual and unskilled, they'll be very highly skilled jobs."

Thomas said the building of a new facility will also generate employment in the area. 

"Then you need to bring the equipment in, so all of that boosts the local economy," he said. "I think agriculture can be an important part of our local economy and even more important in what it is today."

Local auto storage company housing tomatoes 

Earlier this year Thomas Canning food processing plant signed a $25-million deal to supply canned tomatoes to a Nigerian company.

But with the company's new facility not expected to be ready until 2015, Thomas needed a place to store the canned tomatoes.

The Spencer-Butcher warehouse on Lauzon Parkway has been housing auto parts for more than 70 years, but starting next week, it'll be home to about 50,000-60,000 square feet of canned tomatoes.

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Thomas Canning Company's expansion into the Asian market means more job for the local economy. (Aadel Haleem/CBC )

With vacant space due to the struggling auto sector, Greg Spencer of the Spencer-Butcher Group said a chance meeting led housing tomatoes. 

"There's not a lot of difference in our warehouse management system," explained Spencer. "An item is an item and we are storing different items. So it doesn't really matter for us.

"That's one of the expertise we are able to transfer from one industry to another because…they are non-perishable because they will be canned, it's a very good fit for us."