If we 'lost' Target, we dodged a bullet


(The entrance to the Eleven Points Logistics distribution centre in Cornwall on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. Target, which owns the land and building, has announced it will be closing all its Canadian operations. TODD HAMBLETON/CORNWALL STANDARD-FREEHOLDER/QMI AGENCY)


For the past few years, the running beef against Brockville's economic development department was the claim it “lost” the Target distribution centre to Cornwall.

City officials have tried assiduously since then to point out that, given the large amount of land needed for that logistics centre, and the smaller parcels of land Brockville had to offer, this city was never in the running.

Of course, once can still say Brockville “lost” Target to Cornwall – in the same way the Leafs “lost” last year's Stanley Cup to the Los Angeles Kings.

More recent news, however, illustrates how even that out-of-reach prize might have proven short-lived.

Target announced Thursday it will close its Canadian stores, shuttering 133 outlets in the country and leaving 17,600 people jobless.

The Cornwall distribution centre is run by a company called Eleven Points Logistics Inc., which services Target on contract. As of early this afternoon, things looked bleak for employees there.

The Target situation has come up in the context of current closed-door talks between the city of Brockville and unnamed landowners aimed at acquiring more serviced industrial land.

The city is not buying the land strictly to lure manufacturers – although that wouldn't hurt.

In fact, as economic development director Dave Paul told me last year: “Much of the action is in the area of warehousing or distribution centres.”

Of course, the city remains wise to pursue more industrial land, as much as it can get. Otherwise, the next distribution centre will also end up in a neighbouring city. Cornwall is looking like it will soon have a large tract of land, or a ready facility, to market.

But the Target closure is a bitter reminder that the logistics sector, dependent as it is on customers that often operate in other, volatile economic sectors, is no surer bet for long-term success than manufacturing.