London is at the centre of what’s being called “the largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canadian history.”
General Dynamics Land Systems on Oxford St. East has landed a 14-year, multi-billion dollar contract from the Saudi Arabian government to produce armoured vehicles, along with associated equipment, training, and support services.
In regulatory documents filed on Friday, officials estimate the deal is currently worth $10 billion US, but has the potential to reach $13 billion US.
According to the Federal Minister of International Trade, the contract will create and sustain more than 3,000 jobs a year across the country at 500 Canadian firms, with approximately 40 per cent of those jobs located in southwestern Ontario.
“This is exactly the tonic that our city and this region have been waiting for,” said London Chamber of Commerce CEO, Gerry Macartney in a news release issued Friday.
The news was officially announced at the GDLS plant Friday morning where thousands of employees gathered in a hanger on the property. An audio visual system pumped music into the facility and bathed spectators in red light while they waved a sea of miniature Canadian flags.
Officials from General Dynamics and the federal government were greeted with a rock-star reception, each receiving loud cheers.
Speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of the deal while at the same time thanking the Ottawa for it’s help in clinching the contract.
“Let’s be clear,” said GDLS CEO Phebe Novakovic during the announcement. “The Government of Canada made this happen.”
Officials say Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself was involved in the process.
Perhaps the biggest round of applause was for General Dynamics’ Vice President Danny Deep, one of the officials billed as being instrumental to the success of the firm’s bid. Deafening cheers and clapping greeted Deep as he took to the podium to speak about the contract.
“We won…we competed fiercely,” he said detailing how GD engineers had come up with three different vehicle models to show the Saudi Arabian government exactly what the company could do when given the chance.
“That’s how you impress.”
Deep expressed his gratitude to everyone from the government and executive team that worked on the deal right down to the employees at the Oxford St. East facility for their tireless work.
“It’s always been about you and it will always be about you,” he told the rapt faces in the packed hanger.
Saying that the road ahead for the company has never been brighter, Deep said that if they are able to deliver and delight their new clients, “this (will be) just the beginning.”
The armoured vehicles will be designed and manufactured in London making the city the centre of a national supply chain. There’s even a stipulation in the contract to keep production in the Forest City, news that brought a huge cheer from the crowd at Friday’s announcement.
The bid from London beat out competing bids from defence contractors in France and Germany.
“This is great news for the region,” echoed Kapil Lakhotia, Interim General Manager, London Economic Development Corporation.
“The defence industry is the type of technology-intensive advanced manufacturing cluster we are trying to nurture in London.”
General Dynamics currently employs approximately 2,300 people at its facility on Oxford St. East.
With files from Jess Brady