Joliet and Joliette should explore Sister City relationship

Lion Electric’s Joliet announcement created some confusion in Joliette, Quebec

French-Canadian explorer Louis Joliet found his way to this area in 1673, having enough of an impact that our city is now named after him.

Now, nearly 350 years later, come the folks from The Lion Electric Company, headquartered outside Montreal, Quebec and in an area of Canada where Louis Joliet made his home base.

Lion Electric, of course, is the company that has explored the potential for electric vehicle business in the United States and plans to build its U.S. factory in Joliet with goals of employing 1,400 workers and producing 20,000 electric buses and trucks a year.

Louis Joliet’s mode of travel was birchbark canoe, an invention of indigenous Canadians adopted by the voyageurs.

Lion Electric representatives appeared by Zoom at a meeting this week of the Joliet City Council Economic Development Committee, which gave preliminary OK to a tax abatement program that would reduce the city portion of the property tax bill at the Joliet plant by half for five years.

Lion Electric Chief Legal Officer Francois Duquette laughed when asked after the meeting if the fact that Joliet is named after a French Canadian had any influence on the company’s decision to locate here.

“It’s funny you should ask that,” he said. “There is a city of Joliette located near Montreal as well. So, when we made the announcement, there was some confusion.”

Aside from being spelled differently, Joliette, Quebec also is named after someone else – Barthelemy Joliette, a businessman who founded the town as L’Industrie before it was renamed in his honor. But, according to Wikipedia, Joliette was a descendent of Louis Joliet, whose name also is spelled Louis Jolliet. I don’t know why Barthelemy spelled it Joliette, but it’s probably more authentic than Joliet.

A lot of French-Canadians probably wondered where Lion Electric came up with the spelling Joliet.

The two towns have enough similarities that they may want to consider becoming Sister Cities in the program aimed at building global relationships by developing mutual connections between cities in different countries.

To start off with, Joliette has a prison: the Joliette Institution for Women.

According to Wikipedia, Joliette was founded in 1823 and incorporated in 1863. Joliet was settled in the 1830s and incorporated as the city of Joliet in 1852.

There is a Diocese of Joliette. The cathedral is named after St. Charles Borromeo.

Aside from the statue outside of the Joliet Public Library Ottawa Street Branch downtown and the name of the Louis Joliet Mall, there’s not much local recognition of the French-Canadian imprint on our past.

But if Lion Electric accomplishes what it says it will do, I’m sure there will be a lot of recognition on the French-Canadian influence on our future.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News