Ontario to get Great Dane plant

by John G. Smith

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Great Dane Trailers plans to build its first manufacturing plant in Canada, with a yet-to-be-unveiled operation in Ontario, Truck News has learned.

“We’ve been looking at several locations,” confirms Mike Thomas, senior vice-president of manufacturing at the century-old trailer builder. The company has been comparing the cost and abilities of workforces in the areas, which are thought to include Trenton, Ont.

The site is expected to build dry freight trailers and refrigerated vans.

“We’re real close,” he says of the end to the site search, which has been in the works for the past year.

In fact, Trenton seems to be the odds-on favourite for the plant site, given the reaction of Quinte Area Economic Development Commission staff to inquiries about the deal. While not confirming or denying that Trenton was involved in talks with Great Dane, spokesman Chris King was quick to point out that the commission is unable to comment on ongoing talks with any company until that company gives its approval. Given that policy, King said “it would be premature” to say anything about the talks, if such talks were taking place, of course. “We have not been released to say anything yet,” he added.

But if Great Dane is on the verge of moving into the Trenton area, a manufacturing facility of the type described would require a substantial facility and several acres of serviced land with easy access to Hwy. 401.

According to Al Lunenfeld, a commercial and industrial real estate agent operating in the area, he is not aware of a company shopping for that kind of site.

Great Dane has manufacturing sites in Georgia, Nebraska, Tennessee, and two in Indiana. There are two associated Pines trailer plants in Illinois, with another in Mississippi.

Great Dane is the second-largest trailer manufacturer in North America, building 58,454 trailers in 1999. Wabash National is the only company that built more, accounting for 69,772 units.

The company’s growing interest in markets in Canada and the Northeastern U.S. has been no secret.

Great Dane made a $87.5-million bid for the Quebec-based Canam Manac Group, but the deal collapsed in 1999.

Manac, one of the largest trailer manufacturers in Canada, built 8,200 units in 1999. n

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