MORRISBURG — The municipality’s premier high-tech firm outlined plans for a $15-million, 55,000-square-foot building expansion and at least 40 new jobs in Iroquois at last night’s South Dundas Council meeting.
Ross Video’s Jeff Poapst, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Services, updated the local politicians on the “exciting news” at the firm — a fixture in the Seaway village since 1974 and currently on a 27-year streak of torrid, uninterrupted sales growth.
“We’ve doubled in size every five years or so,” said Poapst, noting the company’s global manufacturing operations are all based at the Iroquois John Street site, now employing 225 people in 65,000 existing square feet, where more than 2,000 products are assembled.
“We’re full,” said Poapst of the facility’s current footprint, having last undergone a major expansion that tripled capacity in 2012. “Technology is advancing and we need more space,” he said, highlighting Ross’s position “near the forefront” of a shift toward internet protocol broadcasting and 4K video.
The newest build will be the company’s largest yet — almost doubling the current plant. It’s even more ambitious than the 40,000-square-foot addition that CEO David Ross previously mused about — and suggested was in jeopardy during the successful lobby effort that persuaded the Upper Canada District School Board to preserve Seaway District High School in Iroquois.
Poapst said the project still requires Ross to finalize an agreement with the nearby Iroquois Legion about shared parking space. Provincial approval would also be needed to permit the rerouting of a sewer line buried in a parcel of land directly across from the factory.
“We think, contingent on an agreement with the Legion, we can … essentially double the size of the factory … 28 to 32 months after we start.”
New jobs created could be “even higher” than an estimated 40, “depending on where the market goes,” he said.
The firm has also bought the former Iroquois municipal garage on Dundas Street and the former medical building on Miller Street in preparation for the development.
“We hope to get an occupancy permit this week on our latest interior renovation this week,” Poapst also noted, as the company maximizes current space “given that we’re so full.”
The impending Iroquois development would see the company vacate the 8,000 square feet it currently occupies in the Iroquois Plaza. That space is better suited to retail businesses anyway, he suggested to council.
Below, in footage captured by NVN‘s lens last May, the clip shows Ross Video camera robots at the company’s Ottawa research facility. All manufacturing still occurs at the company’s flagship Iroquois plant.
If the envisioned expansion can’t happen for whatever reason, Poapst said the company would have to consider “less attractive” options such as constructing a smaller building on the remaining land it already owns in Iroquois or ceasing the consolidation of new product manufacturing in the village as a cost-saving measure whenever Ross acquires a new company. The private corporation has enjoyed strong growth in part through the savvy purchase of related industry players — with 14 picked up since 2009, according to the Senior Vice President.
“We firmly believe this operation [in Iroquois] is world class,” he said, also expressing pride in the local workforce. Poapst added his public thanks to the local contractors and municipal staff — mentioning Economic Development Officer Rob Hunter and CAO Shannon Geraghty by name — that have assisted with early planning stages so far.
Members of council assured him of full cooperation from the municipality.
“[I’m] really hoping that the timeline works and that we’re able to move forward because it’s jobs, it’s growth, and it’s a gem,” said Deputy Mayor Kirsten Gardner of Ross Video and its plans.
“The new building looks really, really sharp,” remarked Councillor Donald Lewis of the preliminary plans presented to council that evening.
Councillor Archie Mellon described the project as “quite a feather” in the company’s hat — “and even a few feathers in ours to have Ross Video in South Dundas.”
“I’d love to see this get going a lot quicker than it has,” said an enthusiastic Councillor Lloyd Wells. Adding he understood the “process” involved with securing building permits and the like, Wells offered “anything we can do to get this moving forward because it’s going to be a beautiful addition to the municipality for sure.”
“We are behind the project 100 percent,” noted Mayor Steven Byvelds. “We’re pleased that John Ross started here, and [son] David has expanded the company and has done really well world-wide. So, any issues, anything you need from us, just let us know directly, and we’ll do our best to see it through.”
With annual sales in excess of $200-million, Ross Video switching equipment is found in studios around the planet and 70 percent of the sports stadiums in North America, according to Poapst, who proudly reported on a recent sale — $2-million worth of Ross technology now driving the video screens at the Golden State Warriors’ brand new stadium, which officially opened in California that same evening.
The Ross rep also had occasion to highlight the longstanding “ties” between the Ross family and Iroquois. And ironically, council also awarded tender for the construction of a new Iroquois campground building — a project controversially turned down earlier this year but now going ahead as a result of a large personal donation from company founder John Ross. The businessman’s contribution limits the township’s investment to just over $371,000 in that facility.