Tour of Port City's Private Sector Projects8/30/2012
SAINT JOHN – Politicians, business executives and community leaders boarded a shining green locomotive Wednesday morning for a crash-course tour on what’s happening in the city’s private sector.
The Board of Trade organized the tour to provide exposure for four of Saint John’s major industry clusters: health and life sciences, information technology, energy and the port.
“Clusters are all about natural advantages,” Larry Hachey, chairman of the Board of Trade, told the assembled crowd as the train rolled towards the west side.
“These are things we do better than anyone else in Canada, and sometimes even the world. I think we need to do a much better job at telling the world what we do.”
Kent MacIntyre, general manager of Saint John’s Waterfront Development Corporation, spoke about future plans for the Coast Guard site, Harbour Passage and Partridge Island. He said the key to developing the waterfront is intelligent, strategic planning.
Waterfront Development is close to sealing a deal with a developer for the Coast Guard site, which would include retail, residential and commercial growth, MacIntyre said. The build-out, worth an estimated $80 to $100 million, will take place over six to eight years. MacIntyre said shovels could be in the ground as early as 2013.
Plans are also in place to expand Harbour Passage in both directions beginning in 2014 and to create a strategic plan for Partridge Island. The federal government divested the island to the city, and Waterfront Development is now exploring what opportunities are available.
“It’s a long-term venture for us,” MacIntyre said. “We’ll be looking for partners for the project, as there are other priorities as far as municipal funds go.”
The train took passengers over the harbour to the swirling rapids of the Reversing Falls and then chugged past the green steel and cement smoke stacks of the pulp mill. J.D. Irving, Limited spokeswoman Mary Keith said the mill is the only one in the world that operates using reverse osmosis, a filter system that recycles millions of gallons of water each day.
NB Southern Railway general manager Ian Simpson spoke on the expansion of the company’s west side terminal yard, a project aimed at growing the railway’s reloading and distribution business. Expanding the yard from 10,000 to 90,000 square feet created 150 additional jobs, Simpson said, and more than doubled the railway’s size.
The train meandered past the open waters of the Bay of Fundy before rolling past American Iron and Metal’s scrap metal plant, where backhoes scooped heaps of rusty car parts and discarded construction metal into sprawling piles.
Tour passengers also heard updates on Canaport LNG’s new compressor facility, the recent conversion to natural gas at Moosehead Breweries and Emera’s $30-million upgrade at its Bayside generating station.
Board of Trade president Imelda Gilman said the highlight tour was organized to introduce the new mayor and council to Saint John’s business community.
“We wanted to show business leaders and politicians all of the good things happening in Saint John that people are not aware of,” Gilman said.
“There’s some really innovative, creative work being done that nobody knows about. We wanted to showcase that and the opportunities that are ahead for us.”
Deputy Mayor Shelley Rinehart said the city is currently collecting information for its regional growth strategy, which will identify which sectors the city will focus on over the next five to 10 years. She said a similar strategy developed 10 years ago also pointed to opportunities in health and life sciences, information technology, tourism and energy.