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Second Thoughts: Magna cancels plans for $50 million battery enclosure plant in Chatham

Chatham, Ontario — The rug has been pulled out on what was supposed to be a $50 million EV battery enclosure production plant for the municipality of Chatham, Ont., as a news release from Magna International shows the company’s plans to cancel the project.

The Chatham Daily News got a hold of a Magna news release on Thursday morning, which stated that an adjustment of schedules at the company’s Formet plant in St. Thomas had increased its production capacity, and could therefore make room for the work that was to be done at the new Chatham plant.

Magna officials say they still plan to make use of the former Crown Metal Packaging plant the company originally planned to be a hub for the production of battery enclosures for the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck.

However, instead of fully converting the long-dormant industrial space, Magna says they will “leverage” the newly renovated building in Chatham to facilitate an overflow of work.

“It is important that we leverage existing capacity and know-how with a complex product like battery enclosures, which is a completely new product area for Magna, and one that is important for every electric vehicle,” said Mark Johnson, group general manager, in the release.

“Thank you to the community leaders of Chatham who have been great to work with throughout the initial planning process. Chatham remains on our radar screen as we look for more opportunities in the future.

The decision left Chatham-Kent’s mayor and city officials “very disappointed,” but considerate of the fact that “businesses must be able to manage their operations in the most effective way possible.”

“We are gratified by the company’s statement thanking our staff and community leaders who exceeded Magna’s needs throughout the planning process,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff.

Chatham-Kent economic development director Stuart McFadden said Magna officials had “made an internal business decision, which we respect.”

“We look forward to working with them on new opportunities as they arise,” said McFadden.

“It is our understanding that Magna will be honouring its lease on the newly renovated Chatham facility, retaining a presence here and reaffirming that our community remains a viable potential location for its future business needs.”

McFadden says that despite this plan falling through, he still holds onto hope that Magna will come calling again.

“While disappointed this isn’t happening, we’re going to stay positive. … We’ve got a good working relationship, and I feel comfortable we’re going to get there,” he said.

“Magna is a major auto parts manufacturer and they have said good things about Chatham-Kent and they have a facility here.”

At the time of Magna’s announcement that they would open a battery enclosure production facility in Chatham on March 30, general manager of the St. Thomas Formet plant, Phil Page, said demand “couldn’t be contained within our four walls here in St. Thomas.”

“We were looking for the right size building based on the volume increase and we fell upon Chatham, which worked for us as far as the location of the building and the resources,” said Page.

Magna said they expected to employ 150 people at the prospective Chatham plant.

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