They are classic Ontario small towns -- main streets, stately homes and not much more -- named after a British general or a prominent prime minister.
But Arthur and Palmerston and Shelburne and other communities are harbouring a secret -- their auto parts plants are booming while cities a couple of hours south and west watch as factories close and jobs disappear.
At TG Minto Corp. in tiny Palmerston -- there isn't even a Tim Hortons -- employment is up to 340 people and construction is under way on a 50,000-square-foot expansion.
A half-hour east along the old Highway 9, Musashi Auto Parts Canada Inc. now has two plants up and running in Arthur, one of the main stops along the Butter Tart Trail.
Northeast of Arthur, in Shelburne, KTH Shelburne Mfg. Inc. has expanded three times since it opened in 1998. That plant and Setex Canada GP employ about 650 people between them in a town perhaps better known as the site of the annual Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship.
These and other Japan-based companies are subtly changing the geography of the auto parts industry in Ontario. While several parts plants in Windsor, Brantford and Toronto are preparing to shut their doors or have already done so, those operated by Japan-based companies are thriving in a region that has always been on the fringe of Canada's manufacturing heartland.
There will a painful crash, even a recession, in southern Ontario when Ford and GM finally seek bankruptcy protection. But the growth of the Japanese manufacturers' in Canada, providing well-paid, technically-advanced manufacturing work without the CAW and UAW holding the bosses to ransom, shows a bright spot and disproves the claim that manufacturing is all being sent to the Third World and China for a fraction of a percentage point more profit margin.
Far better than leaving an empty rust belt.
Source: Globe and Mail