The City of Port Alberni is hoping to become a regional food innovation and processing hub, with some help from the provincial government.
The BC Ministry of Agriculture is currently holding a two-stage “competition” to choose regional food hub sites around the province. Ten proponents across BC will be invited to submit proposals, and the successful proponents will be awarded up to $750,000 for equipment and training of individuals on a variety of food processing and food safety aspects.
Port Alberni has submitted a response to the Ministry’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in the hopes of creating a full-scale food processing and innovation centre.
Economic development manager Pat Deakin explained during a council meeting on Monday, July 8 that the Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) has offered matching funds to bring the former Port Fish plant (located near Tyee Landing) up to current seafood processing standards. A company called Canadian Seafood Processing Ltd. has secured financing to do that, but only needs 4,000 of the 12,000 square feet in the building.
Both PAPA and Canadian Seafood Processing, he said, are “open” to the idea of putting additional processing equipment, for fruit, vegetables and meat, in the remainder of the building through this provincial funding.
Port Fish was best known for processing hake and groundfish, but the plant closed back in 2011 and the building has not been used since then.
“The Port Authority saw fit to offer this incentive to try and get it brought up to current standards, and get it utilized and producing for the community,” said Deakin on Monday.
Councillor Helen Poon expressed her support for the initiative. “It will be good for employment opportunities in the city and it won’t cost us anything,” she said.
Mayor Sharie Minions agreed that it was an “exciting” opportunity. “I think this is an industry in our community that has a lot of room for growth,” she added.
North Island College, Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Limited Partnership, Cascadia Seaweed and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s Agricultural Development Committee are also partnering on the project.