Industrial Park Draws Sparks


Robert Thomas

The need to have serviced land ready for potential tenants went up against the calls of folly, as Council debated spending money on a concept plan and applying to extend the deadline on the actual infrastructure project.

City Manager Jim Puffalt told Council that administration was asking for the two measures in order to ensure the new Southeast Industrial Park was ready for any potential tenant.

"We have been trying to market that land over the past year and what we have are developers asking when (it's) going to be ready," Puffalt said, adding that completing the concept plan would allow the project to be ready in the Spring.

Councillor Brian Swanson, however, spoke out against the motion, referring to a previous Council motion which said that no design or money would be spent until an anchor tenant had purchased the land.

"For two years there is no anchor tenant...despite all of the efforts there is no tenant," Coun Swanson stated, adding "I think this is how municipalities get into trouble."

Coun Swanson spoke about the "lesson of history." He referred to the Grayson Industrial Park and Diefenbaker Drive expansion as lessons where the City developed land only to have few or no takers.

"The idea of "if you build it and they will come" a work of fiction and requires long dead people to come alive" Coun Swanson stated.

He spoke about the proposed buyer and anchor tenant Canadian Protein Innovation (CPI) having already received three hastily called noon hour meetings with no results.

"What would make us abandon the position that nothing gets done until we get a buyer?" he asked.

"I don't think there is any impediment for servicing until we get a buyer."

Mayor Frasier Tolmie, however, disagreed and supported the motion.

"I realize there have been some challenges," Mayor Tolmie said, adding "some of the challenges that happened in regards to this land, there is too many people talking to other people."

"When a business comes and they're looking for a place they want it simple," Mayor Tolmie stated.

The Mayor related prospective buyers having to speak to three other organizations as being an impediment to developing the Industrial Park. TransGas and SaskPower were looking for a design he said.

"As far as "build it and they will come", that's a great movie," Mayor Tolmie said, again referring to Field of Dreams, before adding "I'm not going to talk about the past.

He said that with the Premier Scott Moe flying to India and China this Fall that "we have to instill confidence in the Province."

Councillor Dawn Luhning spoke in favour saying the motion did not allow for any actual capital work being completed.

"I think what is being missed is the RFP is only going to cost the City $65,000 not $260,000," Coun Luhning stated.

"The motion is for the design of the industrial park...if we don't get an anchor tenant we don't put any services in the ground and it doesn't cost us anymore than that," she said.

Councillor Crystal Froese said she did not agree with saying the Grayson Industrial Park was a failed endeavour as she, as part of a family business, had personally invested and set up a cheese factory there.

Planning was necessary, Coun Froese stated, and the City wasn't writing a big cheque for the servicing of the lots.

In the end the vote was 5-1, with only Coun Swanson opposed to the concept plan and applying for an extension for the infrastructure money.

The City qualified for funding of $1,155,825 under the Greenfield Phase One Water and Sewer Infrastructure CWWF to assist with the sewer and water development of the new Southeast Industrial park.

The funding is to prepare a concept plan and assist with the installation of sewer and water services in the Industrial Park. The City risked losing the funding if they do not apply for an extension until December 31, 2019 to fully carry out the servicing the report to Council stated.

The report also states that there is a shortage of serviced industrial land in the province, which the City could take advantage of.

Proceeding with the $260,000 concept plan also means the City does not risk losing access to the funding and allowing them to be shovel ready for any potential tenants at the Park. The next cost to the City is $65,000.

The report to Council also lists the Southeast Industrial Park as complying with the Official Community Plan Bylaw 5345. That Plan calls for the City to encourage and promote the expansion of land uses for commercial development.

The Southeast Industrial Park was supposed to be the home of a $100 million CPI pea protein or pea fractioning plant. The plant was announced in late 2016 and was to be the anchor tenant in the Park. Three extensions were granted to CPI to arrange financing for the project and purchase the land.

The status of the project is unknown at this time but at one time CPI maintained an office at the Grant Hall Hotel. Quarterly reports list former City Manager Matt Noble and the Engineering Department as assisting CPI with their plans.

In documents obtained by MJ Independent, the Province initially offered to cost share a portion of the infrastructure as well as a five year corporate tax holiday subject to legislative approval.

Project financing was being arranged through the Farm Credit Corporation. CPI was also to pay for the TransGas transmission line to service the plant.

Responding to an MJ Independent German citizen request for information about CPI director Michael Schoenert and the status of the project, the German Counsel Office said he was a "consultant" on the project but there were some big backers involved in the proposed project.

Herr Schoenert was involved in a civil action with his former employer, the food processor Emsland Starke. The status of that legal case in the German court system is unknown.

In the documents the backers for the CPI project are listed as the Bonhorst Group based in Hamburg, Germany.