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$200M fish plant set to come to St. Laurent

Juliet Kadzviti/The Interlake Spectator

St. Laurent may soon be home to an approximately $200 million fish-processing plant, that would provide dozens of jobs and boost the community’s fishing industry.

Community Development First, a private Winnipeg-based company, that wants to build the fish processing plant on the shores of Lake Manitoba, told St. Laurent council April 5, it was all-systems-go on the project.

“We wanted to update the community on where the development was,” Terry Szydlik, Chief Executive Assistant for CDF, said.

The plant, which has been in the works for several years, is getting closer to becoming a reality, after the province announced its proposed exit from the single desk Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation last August.

CDF told council it was currently looking for a parcel of land to buy and build the plant- which is estimated to be 10 times the size of the community’s recreation centre.
“We are pretty close to acquiring a piece of land. We have permission to do the ‘environmentals’ on the properties that we are looking at,” Szydlik said.

He explained they were in the process of testing samples to make sure the properties were ideal  for a plant and a lagoon, which would be needed to run the plant.

St. Laurent Reeve Cheryl Smith mentioned the community had previously struggled to find suitable land for a lagoon about 25 years ago, and noted it was something the company had to look into, a point Szydlik noted.

The company said it has received support from key government officials, including Minister of Sustainable Development, Cathy Cox.

Starting May 1, the CDF will officially be in the pre-development stage for the plant, which will involve engineering concepts and sampling for about three months. Following that it will go into a construction phase, before opening approximately 41 months from the start of the project.

Smith told the CDF, the community was ready for the plant to finally take shape.
“We sure hope things work out, and the sooner the better, I think the community has been waiting for quite a while and we wish you all the best,” Smith said.
After the presentation Szydlik said CDF was happy to be offering an alternative for fishers in the community.

“We don’t have the same constraints that they (FFMC) do , so one of the reason why we predict we will have 100,000, 000 million pounds of processing here, is because we know that there is a lot of raw fish that is not being processed right now,” he said. 

“So, there is instant increase in income for fishers because we would be able to take that off their hands.”

He said job creation, as noted by council as a major concern for the community, was an important part of the company’s goals for the plant.

“One of the big things that we planned right from the beginning was getting locals in our plant and in order to do that they need to be trained. Training was front and centre in our business plan,” he said.

Local fishing association on board
Allan Gaudry, President of the Lake Manitoba Commercial Fishermen Association attended the presentation and said the plant was an excellent plan for the community.

“It’s a very good idea,” Gaudry said. “They will be buying fish from around the community, which is what fishers want.”

He added the plant will specifically take in all species of fish, some of which Gaudry pointed out, there currently is no market for.
“It’s great news for the fishers, anytime you add value to our industry, it adds to our income,” Gaudry said.

Gaudry said once the dual-marketing system kicks in, fishers will be able to sell their product to many different companies, but ideally would like to sell to a local fish plant.

“We hope it will be a win-win situation. We hope jobs will be created for locals and  that there will be better prices for fishers.”

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