Windsor's rising manufacturing sector bucks provincial, national trend

Newly released 2016 census figures show the employment level in the manufacturing sector in Windsor is on the rise as national numbers continue to dip.

'I think we are able to expand our manufacturing more than other places ... because of the people'

New numbers from Statistics Canada show that Windsor's manufacturing sector is on the rise. (Reuters)

The manufacturing sector in Windsor has managed to grow while the provincial and national numbers shrink, according to Statistics Canada.

A fifth of Windsor's workforce has manufacturing jobs, up 2.1% compared to 2011.

The manufacturing sector dropped across Ontario to 9.9% in 2016 and dipped 0.4% across Canada to 8.8% according to 2016 census data released Thursday. 

"It's not typical," said Sylvie Bourbonnais, with Statistics Canada. "In most areas of Canada the greatest share of worker now works in healthcare and social assistance."

Those areas are second to manufacturing in Windsor, despite the fact the work classification was recently rocked by layoffs in the late 2000s, losing thousands of jobs as the auto sector took a hit in 2008.

Small rebound

There were 39,510 people in the Windsor region employed in the manufacturing sector in 2006, making up 24 percent of the workforce, according to the census that year. 

A large part of the recent increase has been smaller manufacturing companies that are experiencing growth and expanding operations as they diversify.

Reko's General Manager of Tooling Dave Romanello grew up in Windsor and believes the region will always be a manufacturing powerhouse. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"It seems like the gates have opened," said Dave Romanello, General Manager of Tooling at Reko, a manufacturer that builds molds for the automotive industry, among other focuses.

Romanello said that the company is experiencing a fiver per cent yearly growth which has allowed them to build a 40,000-square-foot "manufacturing and innovation facility" in Lakeshore slated to open next year.

"It's always been a manufacturing place for me and it remains so," said Romanello, who was born and raised in Windsor.

He added the core labour force in the area has the training needed for the manufacturing sector and that other employers are noticing that value.

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"I think we are able to expand our manufacturing more than other places in Canada primarily because of the people," said Romanello. "The skill is here."

Growing sector 'constantly recruiting'

Cavalier Tool and Manufacturing Inc. has recently expanded its assembly area with a $9-million project that includes new equipment. 

They've hired dozens of people for manufacturing jobs and are always on the hunt for qualified skilled trades people.

Cavalier Tool and Manufacturing Inc. president Brian Bendig shows off the company's new multi-million dollar expansion in Windsor. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

"We're constantly recruiting," said Jenna Reid, Manager of Human Resources.

"We've been around for over 40 years. Recently the demand in the industry has been continuously growing since we've seen the big turnaround."

I think we are able to expand our manufacturing more than other places in Canada primarily because of the people- Dave  Romanello , General Manager of Tooling at  Reko

Reid couldn't pinpoint when things started to change but said the company has thrived by diversifying their operations.

"In the past 10 years I think they went from 80 employees to about 140 currently so we've been continuously growing, expanding and adding on," said Reid.