MLAs, from left, Pat Murphy, Fisheries Minister Neil LeClair and Robert Henderson, are led on a tour of the Red Cove rock crab processing line by the company’s financing and marketing manager Jon Osmann. Eric McCarthy/Transcontinental Media Journal Pioneer photo
By Eric McCarthy
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
The current economic climate doesn’t scare Jon Osmann and his Red Cove business partners.
They purchased an idle fish plant at Howard’s Cove, P.E.I. this year and spent the past few weeks cleaning and painting the facility and overhauling its production line.
Production started with mackerel on Saturday and Sunday. Now there are 40 employees processing rock crab. “We’ll run up to Christmas,” Osmann predicted. “We have everything sold.”
Most of the company’s work will be in butchering and processing rock crab, but Osmann said they will also do some work with silver sides and mackerel.
Production will be ramped up around the first of July to between 80 and 100 workers said production manager Bruce Buote. He expects students will account for some of their workforce over the summer months. Peak employment could last into October, then dip to 35 to 50 for the rest of the year.
Getting the Howard’s Cove plant has been a six-year mission for Buote. In 2003 he tried to rent the plant from Polar Foods for a month to process crabs. By the following year Polar foods was out of business. His efforts to purchase the Howard’s Cove plant then were unsuccessful.
When it went back up for sale this year he and new partners pounced.
Speaking during the official opening on May 28, Fisheries Minister Neil LeClair said having the plant open again is a “win-win situation for the province and the fishing industry.”
A backgrounder issued by the company pointed out Red Cove’s start-up went ahead without any provincial or federal assistance.
The provincial government, because of an agreement made when Ocean Choice purchased some of the assets of the failed Polar Foods, cannot financially assist competing plants without compensating Ocean Choice.
In an interview following the official opening, LeClair said his government could help Red Cove and other processing plants by other means, such as in marketing and product development assistance. “ We are not tied completely by any agreements or deals; we can still work with the processors,” he said. “We will certainly work with them every way we can.”
The minister commended the entrepreneurs for the confidence they’ve shown in the industry by buying into it during difficult times. “They are well aware of the industry and I think they have a good grasp of what’s taking place in the world and in the economy.”