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Niagara’s secret superpower in manufacturing

“We’re competing globally,” said Aaron Tisdelle, chair of the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA) board of directors and president of Girotti Machine in St. Catharines, Ont.

“We’re competing with Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Mexico, and we’re holding our own because of the skill level that we have here in Niagara.”

Niagara was a hotbed for automotive manufacturing in the 20th century, with three General Motors plants, a Dana Canada plant, and countless smaller companies producing parts and proprietary products.

The region has since pivoted to develop a large group of small and medium-sized manufacturing firms that leverage the unique breadth and depth of Niagara’s skilled workforce.

“We’ve been involved in all levels of the industry and served all types of industry,” said Tisdelle. “And you just have a long history of very intelligent, innovative people continuing that tradition.”

A recent focus has been on advanced manufacturing, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0, providing data and technology-driven solutions for the 21st century.

Niagara is a connected and collaborative manufacturing community, with a unique camaraderie and support network.

The NIA is one of only a handful of regional manufacturing associations in Canada, and while some of its members are competitors, they work together on complex projects that benefit the region’s economic health as a whole.

“You could be employing your competitor’s son or daughter in the office,” said Tisdelle, who noted collaboration often happens for practical reasons.

“We share our assets, we share our knowledge,” he said. “Where one company might be really fabrication-oriented, another is machine-oriented, and so they become a good fit with each other.”

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