Shelburne has been chosen as the site for a planned 150-million fish processing plant.
By Greg Bennett
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
Shelburne, N.S. received an early Christmas present in mid-December with the announcement that the area has been chosen by Cooke Aquaculture for the future site of a regional production and processing centre that will create around 350 jobs.
While the decision has been made, it will still be a lengthy process before any hiring begins. Company officials say the earliest that their planned “state-of-the-art facility” would be up and running is the spring of 2012.
The major production facility would accept farmed fish from all Nova Scotia sites and would process and ship 40-million pounds of salmon annually for markets in the Maritimes and specifically the eastern U.S.
Although the company appreciated encouragement from the municipality, town and chamber of commerce while making its decision, Chuck Brown, Cooke Aquaculture communications manager, says Shelburne made the most business sense from the three communities under consideration.
“Shelburne emerged as the logical choice,” said Brown, noting that factors like an available water supply and the availability of a work force worked in the community’s favor.
The timing of the announcement comes as the company applies for salmon farm licences in Jordan Bay and off McNutts Island that could potentially triple the company’s production in the county.
When the company believes that those applications, along with applications for sites in St. Mary’s Bay, are heading in a positive direction, Brown says they will act quickly to begin building a new plant.
There is community opposition to a proposed plan for an aquaculture site in St. Mary’s Bay, Digby County. The St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance Society wants the government to put in place a moratorium on new fish farms and expansion of existing sites. One thing the group is concerned with is the release into the ocean of pesticides and other substances associated with fish farming.
Back in Shelburne, Brown says the company has yet to select an exact site for a future plant.
Company officials say the major processing facility would include receiving pumps and tanks, a primary processing area, a value added processing area, coolers, freezers, a shipping dock, a maintenance area, a refrigeration area with ice storage, warehouse storage, offices, break rooms and parking lots.
The company noted that wherever possible, innovative energy conservation and industry leading environmental management practices would be used.
In addition, Cooke Aquaculture intends to establish a regional corporate office in Shelburne that would house management and administrative personnel.
Besides the major work set for Shelburne, the company is also viewing the Digby area for a new hatchery, net and cage repair facility and a feed distribution centre that would create more than 60 full-time jobs.
“Our Nova Scotia expansion will be a major focus,” said Brown. “It has been a bit of a long-term process …but we are committed to long-term growth.”
The company says its Shelburne development and the jobs created would equate to $32 million in combined payroll in Shelburne County.
Some have pegged the costs to build the Shelburne facilities at $150-million. Brown says that number is a guess by municipal officials based on the construction costs of similarly sized facilities, but he noted it may not accurately reflect the final construction costs.
“At this point, we just don’t know what the price tag will be,” said Brown.