North Bay Ontario - Ontario Northland has hired more than 200 people over the past two years to help serve a growing list of customers.
The Crown agency, which was on the chopping block several years ago, is now on firm footing, reprising its role as an economic engine in northeastern Ontario, according to its president and chief executive officer.
"It feels like an historic year. We're stable and I know the future is bright for Ontario Northland," says Corina Moore.
"I know that we are going to be significant to the North."
Moore reported around this time last year that the Crown agency had hired 115 people over the previous 12 months as it took on new refurbishment contracts and rail freight customers.
Since then, she says, another 100 people have been hired throughout the organization, of which 75 are based in North Bay.
Moore says a majority of the added jobs are positions in the Ontario Northland shops, including skilled trades, engineering, and production workers.
"We continue to add new customers across the region to deliver on shop contracts, as well as on our rail freight customers," says Moore, pleased that Ontario Northland has been able attract and retain local jobs.
She says the Crown agency is now two years into its four year, $20 million contract with Canarail for the refurbishment of 11 Rocky Mountaineer luxury passenger rail cars.
And Moore says Ontario Northland is pleased to have secured long-sought-after work from Canadian National (CN) Railway.
"It's an ongoing contract to do maintenance and upgrade work," she says.
"It's a really positive partnership that we will continue to deliver on."
In addition, Moore says Ontario Northland is painting a large number of GO Train cars for Thunder Bay's Bombardier plant.
"We're the last stop before they are put into service in Toronto," she says, crediting to growing list of customers to the quality work within the organization's shops.
Moore says the Crown agency also will be doing work on its own fleet thanks to a 10 year capital plan which includes more than $500 million in approved spending.
"Now we can do long-term planning," she says, noting capital spending was previously approved by the province on year-to-year basis.
"It really is a nod from the government to say, we know that you have achieved a lot, you've contained your costs, you have increased the number of customers, and we believe in you."
Moore says Ontario Northland will be purchasing new buses and doing upgrades to its locomotive fleet, rail cars, buildings, and other equipment.
She says the Crown agency also has doubled the amount of spending this year on track improvements.
Moore says the capital funding commitment offers employees stability and allows for long-term, multi-year agreements with customers.
On the rail freight side of the business, she says, Ontario Northland has come up with some truly innovative solutions.
Moore says multi-modal hubs are being added across the operation's rail line, allowing Ontario Northland to attract more off-rail customers.
She says multi-modal hubs are now set up in Earlton, Englehart, and Cochrane.
Moore says the hubs allow businesses such as farms to bring their products to one of the hubs for shipping anywhere in North America.
"That's huge cost-containment for the farmer, which not only grows Ontario Northland but Northern Ontario because you now have a stable business because they can get cost-effective shipping," she says, noting one of the hubs involves a spur line that will be linked to an industrial park.
Moore says the Crown agency is continuing to work with economic development offices in various communities.
"Now, we're building up the North in a new way. We're realizing what customers need," says Moore, noting that has been a key focus for the organization in recent years.