Ontario is pulling in $130-million of new investment as Chinese companies look to the province for traditional manufacturing, modern medicine and solar power.
On the first day of a week-long trade mission, Premier Kathleen Wynne unveiled agreements to build a steel nail factory in Kitchener and a medical isotope facility in Peterborough. A third deal will see Canadian-built solar power technology installed in China.
"Our province has so much to offer," Ms. Wynne told an audience of hundreds of Chinese and Canadian business people at the Jinling, a gleaming new high-rise hotel in downtown Nanjing Monday. "Particularly our highly-skilled workforce."
The nail factory, to be built by the Suzhou Xingya Investment Company, will involve a $20-million investment and create 80 jobs; the Jiangsu Huayi Technology Company's $40-million isotope facility will employ 50 people; and Canadian Solar Solutions' $70-million deal will allow it to hire some 100 people to build the solar panels.
The business deals Monday highlight Ontario's two primary goals for the trip: to promote the province's high-tech capabilities and to diversify its American-dominated export market.
"Our strengths complement each other. Ontario is renowned for its education sector, and it is a leader in clean technology, and science and technology," Ms. Wynne said. "China is the largest emerging market in the world, and is investing significantly in innovation."
Ms. Wynne – who has pledged to build $34-billion worth of new transit over the next decade – also marvelled at China's extensive infrastructure-building. A high-speed train whisked her from Shanghai to Nanjing, a distance of 350-kilometres, in roughly 90 minutes. And the city has completed nearly 100 kilometers of subway in less than 10 years.
"I am very, very happy to see all the progress that has been made," she said.
Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar said he appreciated the help from the Ontario government. Just having Ms. Wynne in China, he said, would help to open doors and get deals done.
"It helps us increase our profile, it helps us to facilitate, and speed up the process for large solar projects," he said.
Simon Hem, CFO of United Enterprise, which is involved in building the nail factory, said his company chose Ontario because of its proximity to the U.S. market, which will buy the nails, and the provincial government's help in finding a spot for the factory.
"We trust in the conditions in Ontario, they provide a lot of support," he said. "We like the location of Ontario because we can cover both Canada and the U.S."
Jiangsu, a province of 79 million people on China's east coast with its capital at Nanjing, has been twinned with Ontario since 1985.
Ms. Wynne also met with Jiansu Vice-Governor Xu Ming and the local party secretary.
And she made a stop at Nanjing University to meet with Ontario students on exchange, and some of their Chinese counterparts who spent last year in Ontario.
"I really liked living in Ontario -- it's kind of lifestyle. You go to Timmy's," 21-year-old Hui Ling Gong, an aeronautics and astronautics student who studied at Queen's last year, told Ms. Wynne. "And it's cold in the winter, and you drink hot chocolate."
"I went to Queen's, too – if you like Kingston in the winter, then you are a very strong person," Ms. Wynne joked.
Nanjing astronomy major Deng Yongning Niu, 21, said he felt right at home during his studies at the University of Waterloo.
"There are so many Chinese students there. Especially at the faculty of mathematics," he said. "One other thing I remember: the coffee and donuts of Tim Hortons. I miss French vanilla so much now."