By Hank Reardon
Minnesota-based Target, one of the United States’ largest retailers, has built a 1.4-million square-foot facility on 169 acres of development-ready land in a business park close to Highway 401 in Cornwall, Ontario.
In recent years, Cornwall – the hub of the Seaway Valley – has seen the arrival of large distribution centres for U.S. retail giant Walmart (1.4 million square feet) and pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart (600,000 square feet), which between them generated about 1,000 jobs. Boundary Properties has also purchased land for a distribution centre in Cornwall, which is increasingly being recognized as a very good logistics location from which to serve eastern Canada. Target is making the move into Canada by purchasing Zellers locations across the country.
The location on the 401 is key, as well as proximity to large urban centres like Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. According to Mark Boileau, manager of economic development for Cornwall, another important factor is “a loyal workforce, suitable to work in that kind of environment, given our manufacturing history, because, of course, these types of operations run pretty much 24/7.”
Another key factor is that Cornwall has hundreds of acres of serviced industrial land. “It’s interesting to look anywhere from Montreal to Toronto along the 401, which I think is really essential to be in this business, but it’s underestimated how important it is to have serviced industrial land,” Boileau observes. “If you look at all the distribution centres and put them all together, there’s probably 400 acres there of serviced industrial land that was required. Trying to find that much serviced land along the main transportation corridor is not that easy.”
Cornwall was once heavy in manufacturing, with companies like Domtar and Courtaulds in the area. When they left, it was a hard hit for a community of this size. “But it’s nice that we’ve found a sector that’s well suited to Cornwall. It has allowed the community to bounce back,” Boileau said. In fact, Cornwall currently has an unemployment rate below national average (it’s about 6.4 per cent, according to Statistics Canada).
The City of Cornwall’s population is 47,000 and the population of the region of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry is about 110,000. Cornwall is the business and commercial centre for the area.
Target’s facility will be one of the largest inventory and storage depots in Canada. It will be the size of 20 football fields.
“I think there’s a lot more confidence in the economy here,” Boileau sums up. “You’re seeing that now with some of the commercial development that’s established here recently. Obviously, you need hundreds of people to operate these facilities.” Boileau also says that while “we’re hoping to find employment not only for people in this city, we would like to try and attract younger families from the Montreal and Ottawa areas who would want to get into this sector. We have fairly competitive housing costs. We also have a lower cost of living in this community, so it’s a very competitive community in that respect.”
The Target facility will employ about 400 people when it’s fully operational later this year.