Titans of the Simcoe County manufacturing industry gathered at Tangle Creek Golf and Country Club, just west of Barrie, on Wednesday morning to network, brainstorm and view the unveiling of a new county-wide advertising campaign: Made in Simcoe County.

The campaign is aiming to shed a light on local industry success stories.

The 2018 campaign features manufacturing stories from six local manufacturing businesses: AGNORA (Collingwood), Baxter Canada (New Tecumseth), Honda of Canada Manufacturing (Alliston), Keebee Play (Midland), MacLean Engineering (Collingwood) and Tempo Plastics (Innisfil), with plans to feature other businesses in 2019 and beyond.

“The goal of this campaign… is to showcase the many wonderful companies we have here that many people don’t know about. There’s a lot of people commuting everyday to Toronto that don’t realize that,” said Simcoe County Deputy Warden Terry Dowdall.

The forum included panel discussions and networking opportunities. Attendees also heard talks from MPP Michael Parsa, the parliamentary assistant to Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and a keynote address from Jayson Myers, CEO of the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster.

“The idea behind to today is really to nurture our existing businesses. We always want new businesses for sure, but this is our way of promoting the manufacturing sector within the County of Simcoe,” Dowdall said. “In showcasing these businesses, it’s good promotion for them, but also to showcase to residents, parents, students the importance of the manufacturing sector and what it can offer.

“We’re hoping to link job seekers with employers.”

Myers gave a speech about the funding the supercluster has available to manufacturers across Canada.

In an interview after his speech with BarrieToday, Myers had words of encouragement for Simcoe County manufacturers.

“First of all, I’d encourage all Simcoe County manufacturers to become a member (of the supercluster). All you have to do is register on our database where we’ll ask questions about your company and your company’s capability. What expertise do you bring? What sort of new technology do you bring?” Myers said.

“We’re also going to be supporting local initiatives – and I think Simcoe County is a great place because everybody works so well together here – for workshops, technology demonstration tours, not only here but across southern Ontario,” he said.

“Also, if you have a really interesting or neat idea that could really transform manufacturing in this region and across Ontario, we’re open to new ideas and new projects that we could fund.”

Of the 100 founding partners in the supercluster, Myers says about three or four are from Simcoe County already. During his speech, Myers said the supercluster has $230 million available in federal funding.

Kurt Stahle, president of Simcoe Plastics located north of Barrie in Oro-Medonte Township, attended the forum to gain connections with local government, look into the possibility of joining the supercluster and possibly get information on some of the supercluster funding.

Simcoe Plastics was started in 1980, but Stahle purchased the company from the owner in 2011, at which time he moved to the area from Kitchener.

“My father had a moulding business, so I grew up in the industry and never looked back,” Stahle said.

Stahle has been in the plastics industry for 33 years, and now he and his wife, who also owns her own business, intend to stay in Simcoe County for the rest of their lives.

“We love living here. It’s a great place to do business and a great place to live,” he said.

Stahle says there’s a big difference doing business in Simcoe County over doing business in his former home base, close to Toronto. Stahle attended the forum to look for funding to support a new plastics recycling endeavour through his business.

“You can actually get business done here and in a far less tense environment,” he said. “There’s a certain energy in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Everyone’s just really tense. It’s go, go, go.

“Up here, we don’t have those issues. I think people come here for a better quality of life, and people have different values here. There’s a better work-life balance,” Stahle added.

“This is definitely a much more pleasant area to do business in.”