The United Counties of Prescott-Russell council (UCPR) gave unanimous support during its video-teleconference session today (April 22) to a proposal from Economic Development and Tourism Director Carole Lavigne for a $36 million project to create a regional food hub and processing plant for local produce and livestock.
“I like the idea of this project,” said Mayor François St-Amour of The Nation Municipality. He noted recent closures by several major food companies of some of their regional processing plants, « which is not good for our producers. »
“I am very happy this morning,” said Lavigne during a phone interview following the UCPR council session. “This is a very innovative project.”
The proposal calls for a 100,000-square-foot facility, located close to Highway 417 for transportation needs, which would include a slaughterhouse section, and facilities for sorting and processing both red and white meat, fruits, and vegetables, packaging and labeling them for distribution and sales. Officials for two UCPR municipalities have expressed interest in providing a suitable site for the plant, along with water, sewer, natural gas, and electricity services.
“We’re hoping to start building in spring 2021 and open in fall 2022,” said Lavigne. “I’m very optimistic. This is doable.”
The UCPR will invest $2.5 million, plus provide additional in-kind investment support, in what will be a public-private partnership. Lavigne’s department will seek out available provincial and federal investment aid.
“We’re hoping to get at least $12 million total,” said Lavigne, regarding estimates for potential senior government financing.
That leaves about $22 million for the UCPR to secure in private sector investment. The project would involve municipal incorporation, with the UCPR as majority shareholder at 51 per cent and the other 49 per cent for the private sector partner. The project would provide the UCPR with a regular source of revenue, which would mean less reliance on property taxes for future annual budgets.
“Today is the first of many steps,” said Stéphane Parisien, UCPR chief administrator, regarding the project. “There’s still a lot more work to be done. Let’s see where this venture takes us.”