Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis confirmed Thursday the city is close to landing 500 much-needed manufacturing jobs.
Francis called talks between BYD Company Limited and the City of Windsor "pretty advanced." He also said that Windsor is "further ahead than other cities" when it comes to convincing the Chinese electric bus builder to set up shop.
'They're focused on Windsor right now.' — Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis
"I’d like to believe, given the level of engagement and involvement ... they’re focused on Windsor right now," Francis said.
BYD's North American headquarters are in L.A. and Francis said buses built in Windsor will be used across the continent.
The jobs are needed in the city with Canada's highest unemployment rate — 10.9 per cent in January.
The mayor, city staff and Enwin Utilities officials have been working BYD for more than a year. Francis and others have made at least six trips to China in an attempt to lure the company to Windsor.
"I’ve always been reluctant to talk about economic development until there’s an announcement [to be made]," Francis said.
He did admit a deal is close.
"We’re in the final stages of the discussions. I was hoping to be in the position by the end of March to share more details," he said.
Francis said Windsor has several aspects that appeal to BYD.
"Being Windsor and having the manufacturing facilities we have, we know that there is a supply chain upstream and downstream that benefits from every job," Francis said.
He said suppliers could build seats, windows and seatbelts, for example.
Francis said BYD's rule of thumb is that one person is employed for each bus built. The company expects to build 500 buses. There will be more jobs at supply factories.
The mayor said Enwin Utilities and Transit Windsor have been involved in the sales pitch because the buses are electric and have special needs.
'Seen them in action'
The buses are already being used extensively in China, the mayor said. He also said the final design for the North American version "is almost done."
"We've seen them in action," Francis said.
He described the buses to be built and used here as full-size city buses that are quiet and green.
BYD already supplies some energy efficient LED streetlights to Windsor, including lights in the Sunset Avenue area on the west end and near Jefferson Boulevard and Riverside Drive in the east.
Some BYD employees are working out of an Enwin building.
"We’ve been working with BYD for some time now, well over a year now," Francis said.