Several companies have expressed interest in Catalyst’s former Elk Falls mill site despite some uncertainty surrounding the property.
Vic Goodman, chief operating officer of Rivercorp, the city’s economic development body, said the organization has been working hard to re-populate the site with good industrial players.
“Lots of companies have come to look at the site,” Goodman said. “Over the last quarter I’ve probably been involved with at least 10 meetings where people came here (to look at the site). I work with something related to the Catalyst site every day.”
Goodman said there are at least 13 options being considered for the mill site, but added he can’t disclose what they are due to confidentiality agreements.
“I can say the projects we’re looking at would be a tremendous benefit to the city as a tax base,” he said.
Complicating things though is Catalyst’s status under creditor protection through the Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act, which it applied for at the end of January. Catalyst obtained creditor protection after it failed to reach a deal with the union workers at its Crofton mill by a Jan.31 deadline. The company has said it will continue operations as usual at its mills in Crofton, Port Alberni and Powell River during the restructuring process but Goodman said he’s not sure the effect it could have on trying to sell off its property.
“We’re not sure how it impacts on what we’re trying to accomplish,” Goodman said. “It’s all new to us and we’re trying to understand the implications of that.”
But despite the uncertainty, Goodman is confident the site will attract a new industry.
“The former Elk Falls mill site is one of the best – if not the best – available industrial site on the West Coast of North America because of all the infrastructure that’s already been put in by Catalyst, all the permits are there, it has its own water access, its own deep water dock – all the things you’d need to take advantage of,” Goodman said. “It’s an absolutely fabulous site.
Goodman says whichever business does take over the site, it will be cleaner than Catalyst: “We’re trying very hard to make sure the companies we’re trying to attract have a much greener footprint than the mill ever had.”