Mexican auto manufacturer sees big opportunities from new base in Strathroy

·3 min read

From Mexico to London and now Strathroy, a manufacturer supplying the auto industry is on the move, growing and bringing more jobs to the area along the way.

Goss Auto Parts Ltd. is moving its small Canadian headquarters from London to Strathroy-Caradoc where it will build a $5-million, 30,000-square-foot (2,700-square-metre) plant, initially employing at least 12 by next summer.

It's the first of three planned expansions that will create up to 60 jobs by 2026, when the $12-million, 90,000-sq.-ft. plant is complete.

"It's going to be our second largest facility in North America," said Arturo Zárate, chief executive and president of the company, who moved to London six years ago.

"We're very excited about this facility because it will allow us to be closer to the market, especially in the wintertime when you need components for your vehicle. It's much better to manufacture in the north."

Construction is set to begin this month, pending a permit from Strathroy-Caradoc, Zárate said. The company bought the property at Molnar Industrial Park, in Strathroy's north end, in early October.

Goss makes auto parts and accessories for clients that include Magna International Inc. in Mexico, Daimler Trucks North America LLC, and Yanfeng Automotive Interiors. The new plant will make floor mats, roof cargo boxes and bike racks, among other accessories, Zárate said.

"We're now expanding the business to sell directly to some of the retail shops and dealerships," he said. "The intention is to produce accessories for the auto market and products for our core customers."

The company announced in 2017 it was coming to London. Initially it planned to lease a facility on Max Brose Drive, but found the building would not accommodate some of its manufacturing equipment. Then it planned to build a new facility in Innovation Park, but with the onset of the pandemic, those plans were cancelled and investments were put on pause, Zarate said.

Now, after a successful year of business growth, he said, Goss is ready to proceed with a new plant in Strathroy, which will involve transferring some of its operations from Mexico and relocating staff from its London office.

It's one of the latest developments in a record-breaking time for business in Strathroy-Caradoc, says a municipal official.

"As far as the local economy . . . we have broken building permit records every year for the last three years, and the pandemic didn't put a dent in the case of business here at all," said Strathroy-Caradoc chief administrator Fred Tranquilli.

Most of the interest comes from businesses in London, he said. A selling point for many businesses is Strathroy's proximity to Highway 402, between London and the border crossing at Sarnia, Tranquilli said.

"Strathroy is uniquely situated along the 402, which is very convenient for a lot of industries that rely on transportation as part of their business," he said.

But with only 250 acres (100 hectares) of industrial land left and "multiple inquiries a day," the municipality has to be "fairly selective" about whom it will sell to, he added.

"If we had more land, and we weren't selective at all, we could sell it all."

For Zárate, it's an opportunity to break into the Canadian automotive industry.

He estimates about 90 per cent of Goss's customers are in the U.S. However, the company is looking to dedicate about 40 per cent of the new plant's capacity to the Canadian market, he said.

"It's a very big challenge for us to demonstrate that manufacturing in Canada is still an option," Zárate said.

"But with the pandemic, the situation is changing everything. So now, it makes a lot of sense to bring jobs back to Canada and manufacture parts here in the north."

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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