Forget the Oscars, Trillium Network is on IMDB

Following months of anticipation and a recent meeting of its board of directors, Volkswagen announced on March 13 that the southwestern Ontario community of St. Thomas would be the location of the company’s first North American EV battery plant. The announcement is exciting and generated a great deal of attention. However, it was short on many of the details that generally accompany announcements of this magnitude.

In order to help Ontarians make sense of this historic investment while we await further details, the Trillium Network’s Brendan Sweeney was called upon by several major media outlets. These included CBC, CBC Radio, the London Free Press, Auto News Canada, The Logic,, and CTV, and culminated in Sweeney appearing alongside the Narwhal’s Fatima Syed on the March 17 episode of TVO’s The Agenda. This marks the Trillium Network’s second appearance on The Agenda in as many years to discuss major investments in Ontario’s automotive industry. (The March 30, 2022 episode of The Agenda, which features Sweeney alongside Clean Energy Canada’s Joanna Kyriazis and McMaster’s Greig Mordue, is available here.) That said, it marks our first in-person appearance on the program, and our first credit on IMDB.

This investment by Volkswagen is significant for several reasons. First, battery cell manufacturing facilities are large and capital-intensive. This particular facility, which will be located on a 1,500 acre parcel of land on the east side of St. Thomas and could employ upwards of 2,500 people, is expected to supply at least three EV assembly plants in Volkswagen’s North American production network.

Second, and as our recent work with Clean Energy Canada concludes, the economic multiplier benefits associated with battery cell manufacturing are substantial. Our research estimates the job multiplier associated with battery cell manufacturing to be between six and eight by 2030. This is even greater than the multiplier benefits associated with traditional vehicle assembly activities.

Third, this investment represents a reversal in fortunes for St. Thomas and neighbouring London, two Ontario communities that were only a decade ago left reeling by the departure of major manufacturing employers such as Ford, Caterpillar, Sterling Truck, and Kellogg’s.

Fourth, this represents the first investment in Ontario since the 1980s by an automaker that did not have existing manufacturing operations in the province. While investments by incumbent automakers in existing facilities are incredibly valuable, adding a new company to the mix demonstrates that Ontario remains competitive in the face of unprecedented incentives being offered in the United States and unconscionably low wages in Mexico.

When the full details of the investment and government support emerge, we expect that a skilled and talented workforce will have proven to be one of the key factors that led to Volkswagen choosing Ontario. As discussed in detail on The Agenda and with The Logic, the ‘labourshed’ surrounding St. Thomas and London, which extends from Brantford to Chatham, provides access to a well-educated workforce with deep manufacturing industry expertise. The specific needs of a battery cell manufacturing facility, however, differ somewhat from those of a vehicle assembly plant. This is explored in detail in a recent report published by our friends at Invest Windsor-Essex and Workforce WindsorEssex.

We at the Trillium Network are excited to learn more about the details of Volkswagen’s investment in Ontario and are poised to contribute data and insight to support these and other epochal investments in Ontario’s advanced manufacturing sector. For more information about the Trillium Network or media inquiries, please contact us (