Last week Formet celebrated Twenty-Five years in St. Thomas, that kind of time and investment - from employment to Santa Claus Parade floats, makes an incredible impact on a community. Our CEO, Sean Dyke, was invited to speak at the celebration last week - the following includes excerpts from his speech.
In our office at City Hall, we are fortunate to have access to historical files that tell the industrial story of St. Thomas. It turns out that the property where Formet sits was the site of one of the Economic Development Corporation’s first official industrial projects when Clark Equipment moved into the City and built a new 43,000-square-foot building on this spot in 1956.
At the time, the City’s Industrial Board spent four years trying to attract that business to the City and the work was rewarded as they grew over time with several expansions and became one of the City’s top employers – until they closed in the early 90s, along with so many others.
The City was in the heart of a downturn, with 2 million square feet of vacant industrial space and nearly 1600 more jobs lost than gained from 1990 – 1995. Then-Mayor Steve Peters, now City Councillor, called it the worst times St. Thomas had seen since the Depression.
And then it all changed.
That vacant building, that piece of our industrial history, offered up an opportunity, and with some strong support from the late Maurice Beaudry and the City’s newly formed Rapid Response Team, Magna selected St. Thomas for this massive investment – the $41 million building permit for the Formet facility is still, 25 years later, the most significant private investment in the City’s history.
There’s a story in several news articles about a cold November day in 1996 when four high-level executives from GM’s truck vehicle line came to town to see the plant’s construction progress with high hopes for this new, advanced hydroforming technology.
Dressed in their suits and expensive shoes, they climbed out of their vehicles and onto a mud-filled site to see a backhoe parked next to a hole in the ground. Expecting test products six months later, one of them said, “You’re going to do what, by when?”. Formet’s management confidently told them to “Keep their doors open because the Formet team will be shipping frames on time.” They did – and you have been ever since.
Through multiple downturns, customer shutdowns and most recently, COVID, Formet has been a pillar of success in this community, creating direct jobs for thousands over the last 25 years and indirect employment for tens of thousands while being one of the City’s most prominent charitable supporters.
The spinoff of what Magna does in St. Thomas is huge.
In 1996, Mayor Peters was quoted as saying he had trouble grasping the “magna-tude” of the deal. We can all excuse the pun because there’s no way that anyone could have predicted the impact that Formet would have and will no doubt continue to have on the entire region.
As the City’s largest private sector employer and a key driver for economic growth, not just in St. Thomas but in all of Southwestern Ontario, Formet is a force to be reckoned with and a big part of what makes us #stthomasproud. On behalf of our Economic Development Corporation, we thank the management and the team members for sticking with this community over the years and making St. Thomas such a part of what Magna achieves on a global scale.
Fun Facts with Formet:
- In its busiest year, Formet produced enough frames to go around the world more than twice (end to end)
- When the one-millionth frame came off the line, employees signed it before it was displayed on the wall above the General Manager's Office