By Brian Dunn

One of the principal objectives of CargoM, the Logistics and Transportation Cluster of Metropolitan Montreal, is to attract new businesses to the region by identifying sectors that offer growth opportunities, particularly those which may not have a strong presence in the area. About three or four years ago, it pinpointed the agri-food sector as a potential business to pursue.

“The city (of Montreal) helped in identifying this sector which we felt could be a great opportunity for us,” said Mathieu Charbonneau, Executive Director of CargoM which recently celebrating its 5th anniversary. “Not just to serve the Montreal region, but also Ontario and the northeastern U.S. But before we can go after new business, we need to build the infrastructure and to understand cold chain technology and to see what’s currently available in Montreal. We also need to see who wants the service.”

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CargoM had a kiosk at SIAL Canada in May, the most important international trade show for the agri-food business in Canada which alternates between Montreal and Toronto. The major players in the sector such as Olymel and Danone have their own cold storage facilities, so CargoM is targeting smaller and medium-size players who may want to set up shop in the Montreal area. “The agri-food sector is socially acceptable and offers well-paying jobs and a lot of the logistics are done in-house,” Mr. Charbonneau pointed out as some of the reasons why it is an attractive sector to pursue.

Targeting of the sector was part of the mandate of CargoM’s Working Group I – Logistics and Transport Development Opportunities. It is one of four working groups for the organization. But whenever a new administration is elected, as in the case of the City of Montreal, it seems the shipping industry has to start from zero in terms of explaining the importance of the sector to the economy, noted Mr. Charbonneau. Fortunately, the new mayor, Valérie Plante, is adding more resources to economic development and has appointed Véronique Doucet as Director of Economic Development Services for the City, a similar position she held with Ville St-Laurent where she concentrated on the area around Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, said Mr. Charbonneau.

Under Working Group 2 – Communication and Outreach, CargoM is casting a wider net by reaching out beyond the Montreal region. For example, Mr. Charbonneau made a presentation at the Association of Canadian Port Authorities conference in St. John (NB) in September and attended the American Association of Port Authorities conference held in Montreal in June.

This past summer, consultations and roundtables led to a pilot project under Working Group 3 – Innovation and Fluidity, which experimented with moving freight during off peak hours. Both Montreal Gateway Terminals and Termont went from operating between 7 a.m.-3 p.m. to 6 a.m.-5 p.m. for three weeks. About 20 per cent of cargo flow occurred during the extras three hours and instead of an average of two return (pick up and drop off) trips per day per truck, there were almost four turns per day, noted Mr. Charbonneau. The experiment was so successful that the operating hours have been extended from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. with an extra $35 fee for extended terminal hours. “It’s a good example of what a cluster can do and we also tried to see if we can get cargo to move at night. One example is a South Shore chemical company that delivers to a Montreal water treatment facility as a customer. Since the facility is only open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., the chemicals could be deposited at a Montreal depot at night when traffic is light, then delivered the next day. “

Working Group 4 – Workforce, continues to be challenged in attracting new employees to the sector. But thanks to the free-trade deal between Canada and the European Union, the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) is hiring for the first time in a long time, said Mr. Charbonneau. The volume of containers moving in and out of the port of Montreal rose almost 20 per cent in July compared to the same period a year ago. During the first seven months of the year, container imports were up 7.8 per cent from a year ago. As a result, MEA is hiring 50 longshoremen and 15 auditors.

“Since the signing of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the port of Montreal has become a preferred shipping route for carriers to access the markets in Central Canada and the American Midwest,” said Stéphane Morency, President and CEO of MEA.

CargoM has also begun to interact with newly-arrived immigrants as a potential pool of badly needed workers. And on Nov. 19, it is holding its third annual Career Day at Le Grand Quai at the Old Port which last year attracted 50 companies who had 300 potential positions available for the 1,500 attendees.

CargoM continues to raise its profile by targeting different national and international events. As an example, Multimodal Americas held its 2018 conference in Toronto in October, an event that Mr. Charbonneau would like to attract to Montreal. The Retail Industry Leaders Association which attracts heavy hitters like Walmart and Nike, is being held at the end of February in Orlando and Mr. Charbonneau will attend, as will Port of Montreal that will have a kiosk at the event. He also plans to attend Cargo Logistics Canada in early February in Vancouver and Transport Logistic Multimodal Munich in June.

“We also want to do a promotional mission in Europe and Asia at some point,” Mr. Charbonneau added. “Ànd we want to create a Foreign Trade Zone centre in Montreal (where public and private organizations set up a task force to provide better access to government policies and programs to promote local and international trade) like they have in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec City and Halifax.

Another significant initiative is the creation of a $100 million fund by the Port and FTQ (Fonds de solidarité development capital fund) for companies that want to expand or export more from here.”

During its 5th Anniversary celebration in June, CargoM gave special recognition to the driving force behind the establishment of the organization. Honoured with a plaque were Sylvie Vachon, President & CEO, Montreal Port Authority, Madeleine Paquin, President & CEO, Logistec Corporation, Claude Robert, President, Robert Transport and François Hébert, Vice-President, Corporate Development, CN.

CargoM also published an analysis of its profile since it launched in 2012 and its contribution to the transportation industry in the Montreal area over the past five years. The number of activities it participated in such as conferences, workshops, trade missions between 2013 and 2017, for example, increased from 63 to 126, while mentions in the media jumped from seven to 37 during the same period. The number of studies, reports and publications it was involved in also showed a sharp increase from eight to 45.

In a survey of its members and non-members and its transportation network, 94 per cent of those surveyed felt CargoM had a positive impact on the industry, while 96 per cent felt it was a relevant player in the Montreal area. The only area where it polled relatively low was that only 66 per cent felt CargoM had a positive media presence, a profile Mr. Charbonneau would like to improve.