HALIFAX – Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s upcoming trade mission to France will include a stop at Michelin’s head office.
The French tire giant is the largest public sector employer in the province and McNeil, who leaves Sunday for a week-long visit, said he wants to explore any potential interest the company has in expanding its operations in Nova Scotia.
McNeil said while no such plans have been brought to his attention, the visit to the company’s headquarters south of Paris, is more than just a courtesy call to senior executives.
“We are going to look for opportunity,” he said. “We are going to ensure that Michelin recognizes that this province is open for business.”
McNeil said while the province would not offer a financial package to entice companies during the trip, there are programs they can take advantage of like the capital tax credit for large corporations.
Last week, Business Minister Geoff MacLellan expressed concerns ongoing NAFTA talks could threaten Michelin’s North American operations. He said a “significant impact” was likely if U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade demands are adopted.
But McNeil said Thursday he believes the current uncertainty around the trade agreement is not an impediment to landing more investment.
“We are going to be proactive,” he said, when asked about his plan to push the province as a place to invest.
The French manufacturer has three plants in Nova Scotia, providing well-paying jobs to more than 3,000 people. The plants are located in Granton, Bridgewater and Waterville.
McNeil noted that land has already been tabbed around the firm’s Waterville plant in the event Michelin should want to expand its Annapolis Valley operations. He said there is also capacity at the Granton plant.
The trip will also see McNeil meet with government officials and other businesses in the aerospace, digital media, and food and hospitality sectors.
Other companies on the agenda with Nova Scotia ties include video game publisher Ubisoft and two aerospace firms, Thales Group and Stelia Aerospace (formerly Composites Atlantic).
According to the province, Nova Scotia exported more than $90 million worth of products to France in 2016.
Primary exports included seafood and aircraft parts.