Questions surround potential mill sale

Would-be buyer of Campbell River's Elk Falls mill site has empty properties sitting in Alberta

Question marks are appearing beside the name of the Edmonton developer who has promised to buy the 400-acre Catalyst site, establish a new industrial park and create up to 600 jobs.

Last week Harold Jahn, 42, owner of Pacifica Deep Sea Terminals, agreed to pay $8.6 million for the abandoned Elk Falls Mill site. The deal with Catalyst Paper is expected to close in one week.

Now the Mirror has learned that at least two similar Alberta projects proposed by Jahn are not off the ground. And, one municipal official in the Athabasca region said: “It’s a good thing that your alarm bells are ringing.”

On Monday Jahn countered, “It is frustrating working in the (Alberta) North…there’s a lot of gossip going around.”

Catalyst CEO Kevin Clarke has praised Jahn as an experienced, job-creating developer, “with the capacity and an industrial concept that will fully utilize the site’s infrastructure.”

In 2007, Athabasca County sold Jahn more than 30 acres that the developer promised to transform into a truck stop, convenience store and residential development. County Manager Gary Buchanan said the deal included conditions and timelines that Jahn failed to meet and the property was taken back in 2010.

Jahn said the property is still in the name of one of his companies and there are still plans to develop it.

Here in Campbell River, Jahn said he will bring some of his existing companies to the new industrial park including developer of algae based solar cells, a lithium battery manufacturing facility, an ocean wave energy equipment fabrication and an electric vehicle assembly plant.

“My intent (is) to create jobs in smaller communities,” Jahn told The Mirror.

That’s exactly the same thing he told the Athabasca Advocate in 2010 when he was wooing the Village of Boyle in his role as the head of “Prosperity Industrial Park.”

This project would involve the transformation of 135 acres into about 20 industrial lots.

“The companies that will likely move into the area are a lot of distribution, light manufacturing and energy services companies,” Jahn told the Advocate.

“If we can attract some of the larger manufacturing companies that we’ve been working with, there could be 500-600 positions available,” Jahn said. “My focus has always been on smaller communities.”

On Monday, Boyle’s Chief Administrative Officer Charlie Ashbey said the land is still in the name of the original owner and the concept “has not been realized.”

“I’d love it if Jahn would show up and go ahead with the project he planned here,” Ashbey said.

The village official added, “The last time we talked, in 2011, Jahn said he was pretty busy with another development.”

Jahn said he has a big financial commitment in the Athabasca region and is still “moving ahead” with his development plans for the property in a year.

“People don’t see dirt moving and they think you’ve walked away,” he said during a phone interview Monday.

Catalyst Paper was contacted but did not offer any comment.