Big plans for Maitland
April 11, 2018
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PRESCOTT – A not-for-profit economic development organization, which has succeeded in attracting biochemical plants to
Sarnia, Ont., is now targeting Eastern Ontario for expansion.
Sandy Marshall, executive director of Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC), said the Invista Canada plant near Maitland, formerly called DuPont, offers advantages similar to those of Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, which allowed his group to woo the biochem industry there.
Marshall told a meeting of the St. Lawrence Corridor Economic Development Commission on Tuesday that his group has taken on some local talent with knowledge of Invista and the area.
Joe Hendriks, a longtime DuPont employee, former Maitland site manger for Invista and a former Invista director, has joined BIC as a project manager of its COMM SCI group. After retiring from Invista last year, Hendriks became a manager of the Port of Johnstown’s management committee and Augusta Township’s industry representative on the corridor board.
Marshall said the Sarnia-based BIC is a non-profit group with a mandate to support and grow the biochemical industry in Southern Ontario. Using $27 million from the federal FedDev Ontario and the provincial government, Marshall said, his group initially concentrated on the Sarnia “cluster,” attracting biochem plants to take advantage of the infrastructure in the Chemical Valley.
Now, BIC is looking past Sarnia, hoping to create a new cluster using the resources of Invista Canada at Maitland.
Marshall said BIC has seen impressive success in Sarnia and it hopes to do the same thing here.
Since BIC began its work 10 years ago, Marshall said, Sarnia has seen the opening in 2015 of the $145-million BioAmber plant, which produces a bio-succinic acid.
Comet Biorefining, an industrial sugar company, has announced plans for a plant and two other companies have plans in the engineering phase, he said.
So far, BIC initiatives have produced 600 direct jobs in the Sarnia area, Marshall said. When you factor in indirect and construction jobs, he calculated that BIC has seen the creation of 4,000 jobs over the 10 years.
But Marshall cautioned the 80 people at the corridor meeting that biochem plants are a long-term projects, and not to expect instant results.
“You have to look at the long game,” he told the gathering. “This will take a long, long time so you have to take a long-term approach to it.”
Marshall said BIC started wooing the biochem industry in 2008 but it took seven years before BioAmber opened.
But the good news, according to Marshall, is that once the first commercial bio plant is established, others tend to follow.
For example, the BioAmber plant needs industrial sugar so Comet established its plant to feed BioAmber, he said. Area farmers also invested in Comet to provide a market for their bio-mass produce, he added.
While attracting a commercial plant is the economic jackpot, Marshall said this area might be able to score some smaller demonstration plants in the meantime.
The demo plants are temporary trials to determine whether a permanent operation might be viable or not, and they cost $10- to $15-million to build and produce some jobs, he said.
Marshall and Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey, who accompanied local MPP Steve Clark to the corridor meeting, both commented on how similar this area is to the Sarnia situation.
Both were booming industrial regions hit by massive downsizings in the last two decades, they said.
Bailey and Marshall said the Sarnia area was able to parlay the infrastructure of the declining industry in the Chemical Valley into an attraction for biochem. The old plants had water, electrical, steam, wastewater infrastructure that could be used in biochem, they said, adding that many of the same resources exist at the Maitland site.
Augusta Mayor Doug Malanka hailed the appointment of Hendriks as great news for his township, which includes Maitland.
“Augusta Township is so pleased with Joe’s appointment as I can’t think of anyone who is more qualified for the job and more knowledgeable of the area,” Malanka said. “This is a good news story for the corridor, Augusta Township and the region.”