TRINITY BAY NORTH, N.L. — When looking for a new tenant for the old fish plant in Port Union, the goal of the municipality of Trinity Bay North was to “grow their economy.”
Now it’s possible a potential “grow-operation” will do just that for the community.
Daniel Porter — originally from Champney’s West, who moved to Clarenville as a teenager and currently lives in St. John’s — leads a group of four investors who would like to use the former fish plant in Port Union as a cannabis production facility.
While he says he’s not quite ready to unveil the name of their enterprise — it’s going to be a bit of a surprise — Porter told The Packet all about his plans for a cannabis business in Port Union in an interview on Friday.
“The reason I picked the plant in Port Union, there’s a couple reasons for that … I grew up in the area. It is also, physically, one of the only buildings between 50,000-100,000 square-feet on the east coast of the island that is still in good enough shape to renovate and not have to be torn down and replaced,” he said.
He says he looked at about 10 different buildings on his search, mostly former fish plants on the east coast, and found only two that fit the bill.
The plant has been vacant since it was damaged during hurricane Igor in 2010.
Since then, the town has been working with the plant owners Ocean Choice International (OCI) to transfer ownership of the facility to the town.
Now, the plan is for the sale to go directly from OCI to Porter’s group.
“I kind of cut in on that process in the middle of it before it actually changed hands,” explained Porter.
“Once I interjected my plan, rather than deal with OCI independently, I went straight to the town and spoke to them about my idea.”
They’re still finalizing talks to take over the structure.
“I should have the keys by May 15 … Right now, the lawyers are doing the title search, we’re just allocating funds and setting up our company structure to close the deal. There’s nothing holding it up other than logistics.”
Porter says the idea for a cannabis production facility came from an opportunity for investment. He says he’s looked into becoming a licensed producer (LP) of medicinal cannabis prior to the federal government’s announcement on the legalization of the recreational-use market.
“It definitely will increase its potential rather than just the prescription market,” he says. “It definitely makes the project a lot more viable from an owner’s perspective.”
As far as exactly what they will provide as a business, Porter says, in addition to cannabis, they plan to produce CBD oils and edibles — but these both require separate licenses, all from Health Canada.
To begin they’ll be applying to get a “flower license” for the production of the plants themselves.
According to Porter there are currently 91 LPs in Canada and none in Newfoundland and Labrador. But they’ve already applied to become an LP with Health Canada.
“Their standards that we need to meet have to be met and that’s where we are. Health Canada is the final say on this.”
Porter says as soon as he gets the keys in his hand, he’s going in to start work.
“We’re going to start beautifying the outside of the building right away, making it safe and accessible.”
Porter says waiting on the LP application process will affect their timeframe, but expects to have all work done in about six to 18 months. It will likely about a year before they’re legally allowed to plant a seed.
Applying for public funding wasn’t his first thought when setting up his plan, but he realizes there may be some opportunities with government grants, which would help them get everything done quicker en route to opening.
“Just watch what I can do for the people … I’m going to help change that area, I promise you.”
TBN Mayor says they want to work with residents
Shelly Blackmore, mayor of Trinity Bay North, told The Packet this whole process came as a bit of a surprise, when they were approached in February.
The town has been seeking out possible industries for the old fish plant for the past couple of years.
“Council did hear what they had to say as far as this was an industry that would provide 52 weeks a year employment, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and would utilize the full plant,” said Blackmore.
While there are positions that will need to be filled by specialized personnel, like chemists and horticulturalists, Porter says there will be other jobs created once the business is up and running. He added it should also attract new families moving to the community.
Porter says he plans to purchase all materials and services during construction and operation locally where possible.
Blackmore says this is what the town hoped would happen as they were seeking out business.
“We always maintained that if there were a commercial entity that wanted to come in and run that plant, that was always our preference,” she adds.
She says she wants to make sure the residents of the communities are informed through the process, which includes a public meeting on Wednesday, April 25.
“The last thing I want is for an industry that the community does not want (to) come in. So this is why we’re trying to get the information out; allow residents the opportunity to be heard.”
The meeting is 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Port Union Lions Club. To register and submit questions, call the Town at 469-2571 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.