The Corner Brook Port Corp. has taken another step to diversify and expand its operation with the purchase of the former Lafarge building and warehouse.
The corporation has no intentions to produce gypsum product, said Jackie Chow, port manager and chief executive officer. All equipment associated with the former wallboard production will be removed and the facility cleaned up. She said the corporation is negotiating with a prospective tenant for the lease of the building.
The facility was purchased for $1.2 million (U.S.) Sept. 30, 2011.
“The building’s location on the waterfront is ideally suited for a variety of uses, particularly value-added manufacturing or industrial fabrication,” Chow said.
She would not discuss the potential tenant, saying she was not able to reveal who is interested.
“We felt that this facility would be an asset to the corporation because it is located on the waterfront in close proximity to the port itself, and also because of its size and configuration,” she said.
The facility, which was built in 1951 and had pre-fabricated extensions completed in 1985 and 2001, has been idle since the stucco production ended and has been significantly underutilized since the closure of the wallboard plant in 2007, said Chow.
“Our focus is on increasing economic activity in the region, and we are always looking for tenants who will utilize the port for shipping,” she said.
Chow said cleanup will be a major task, especially due to the heavy layer of gypsum dust throughout and the corporation hopes to salvage the electronic control system in the building. It will seek expressions of interest for this work.
Heberts Recycling Inc. will continue to operate in the facility.
Oil and gas opportunities
Meanwhile, Chow said the corporation is actively working within the oil and gas and energy sectors to increase and expand business opportunities at the port.
“We feel that we are very strategically located for opportunities related to Muskrat Falls, particularly the construction of the transmission line,” she said. “We are actively pursuing those types of activities all the time, and we have had a fair bit of interest in opportunities for this region for projects related to those developments.”
Chow said she is confident these pursuits will lead to future initiatives and activity.
“We have identified that as a key sector for us, and it is important for us that fabricators and other people in the industry will look to Corner Brook for these opportunities,” she said. “But, they won’t look to Corner Brook if we don’t make sure that we can meet their needs, and that they know about us and what we have.
“A deepwater, sheltered port is certainly a great asset for us, one of the few on the island.”
The R.A. Pollett building now has seven tenants occupying eight suites. There is one vacant suite — a 3,900-square-foot, oceanside space with private entrances. Chow said it is suitable for one tenant or can be divided if required.
All possibilities on the table
Chow said the corporation is also seeking opportunities for freight service to Corner Brook. For years, that direction included establishing a ferry link with Belledune, N.B. That goal diminished in 2007, when a study determined the link was not a feasible business opportunity.
The link between Belledune and Newfoundland has since reignited interest, but this time through the Argentia ferry run. Chow said the port corporation is not actively pursuing a Belldune service, but never considers any possibility to be off the table.
“Opportunities develop all the time and I anticipate services would arise to meet demand when the occasion warrants it,” she said. “Are we anticipating the resumption of a freight service to Corner Brook? Definitely. At some point, we expect there will be another service, and we hope opportunities we work on will warrant it.”
The corporation has also benefitted from the revenue generated through having the winter ferry to Labrador run to Corner Brook. Chow also said it has had a positive impact on the local business community.
Record cruise season
The port also expects to experience a record number of passengers visiting the area through cruise ships. There are 15 ships docking this fall, creating another significant revenue source for the corporation, said Chow, but also for the local business community.
There are various partnerships being established to increase the local interest in cruise passengers this season, she said.
“It takes a whole community to host a cruise ship, to really make that significant impact on the experience of the passengers,” she said.
The Western Star